File - This Monday, Dec. 26, 2011 photo, shows a member of Shell staff on the Bonga offshore oil Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessel off the coast of the Niger Delta in Nigeria. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Little is known about the new radical group that has claimed a series of pipeline bombings in Nigeria's oil-producing region this year and evaded gunboats and soldiers trawling swamps and villages. Their attacks have driven Nigerian oil output to near a 22-year low and, if the violence escalates into another insurgency in the restive area, it could cripple production in a country facing a growing economic crisis.Militancy has been rife over the past decade in the Delta, a southern region which is one of the country's poorest areas despite generating 70 percent of state income.Violence has increased sharply this year – most of it claimed by the "Avengers" – after Buhari scaled back an amnesty deal with rebel groups, which had ended a 2004-2009 insurgency.The "Avengers" have carried out a string of attacks since February that reduced Nigerian oil output by at least 300,000 barrels a day of output, and shut down two refineries and a major export terminal.Even oil majors, which have long pressed for better pipeline protection, worry the tactics could backfire.
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