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Vandals blow up major Nigerian oil pipeline
LAGOS, Nigeria, April 7 A major oil pipeline in Nigeria's petroleum-rich Niger Delta burned Monday after being blown up by vandals, days after ethnic militants threatened to destroy property belonging to multinational oil companies in the volatile region.

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       Oil firms have slashed output by more than 800,000 barrels a day — 40 percent of the 2 million barrels Nigeria normally produces daily — because of ethnic fighting that has killed hundreds in the area in recent weeks. There were new reports Monday of more ethnic fighting.
       The pipe near the southern port of Warri was blown up Saturday, said Ndu Ughamadu, spokesman for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. The fire still burned Monday morning, he said.
       No one claimed responsibility, but ethnic Ijaws in the region, who believe the government may be trying to sideline them ahead of national elections, have threatened to blow up oil installations.
       Also, explosions and other deadly accidents involving gangs of thugs who siphon petroleum products from pipelines are common.
       The pipeline carries crude oil from ChevronTexaco's Escravos oil terminal to a refinery in Warri and another in Kaduna, 450 miles to the north.
       ChevronTexaco evacuated Escravos on March 23 after several days of fighting between Nigerian soldiers and rival militants from the area's two major ethnic groups, the majority Ijaws and minority Itsekiris. Workers began returning Friday.
       Nigeria is the fifth-largest supplier of U.S. oil imports.
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