Security forces Thursday attacked the camp of a gang implicated in a recent gunbattle that killed more than a dozen people in Nigeria's restive oil region.
About 20 gang members were arrested in the raid in Port Harcourt, the largest city Nigeria's southern oil region, said military spokesman Sagir Musa.
He said he "strongly believed" gang member Soboma George was killed, but allied militants said he survived. The two accounts could not be immediately reconciled. There was no word on other casualties.
Police say forces linked to George fought last week with fighters loyal to another gang member, Ateke Tom, although Tom denied that.
At least 15 people died in days of sporadic street fights that ended over the weekend.
Local media reported that the gang members were fighting for turf and rights to the lucrative trade in crude oil stolen from pipelines and sold on the black market.
Both Tom and George are wanted by authorities, but neither go to great lengths to conceal their movements, even traveling on occasion in large convoys. Musa said security forces intended to crack down.
The two gangs are believed to be primarily motivated by criminal motives. But many fighters move between criminal acts and militant efforts to get more federal funds for their region, which is impoverished despite being the source of oil in Africa's biggest producer.
George is believed to be allied with the region's main militant group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. MEND said in an e-mail that George was alive.
After George was arrested recently, dozens of MEND fighters attacked the prison where he was held, freeing him and other prisoners.
Lawlessness across the southern region has flourished since militants intensified their activity in late 2005. Kidnappings and gunfights are now common.
Last Mod: 17 Ağustos 2007, 11:50