Thousands flee Nigerian town to escape from militants

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thousands of people have fled an oil town in the Niger Delta, Nigeria yesterday after an unknown militant group said that all people not originally from the area who did not leave the town would be beheaded.

The militants first visited Bonny Island, the town involved, two weeks ago, killing nine people. According to newspaper reports, they said that they would return yesterday to carry out the beheading. They did not return as promised, but many in the city of 100,000 took the threat seriously and left.

Kingsley Adonis Pepple, a local resident and youth leader, described the panic on Bonny Island. "They were handing out copies of this article to people in the street. There was panic. People packed up their entire family into a boat and fled," he said.

Pepple also said that all known militant groups in the area had denied issuing any threats

Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, recently offered the United Kingdom's support to help combat the spread of incidents like this. He said that "the security training force [provided by the UK] ... will be support for the Nigerians to be able to have trainers and others who can build up this capacity locally to deal with the problems of lawlessness that exists in the area."