Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- The Nigerian Army Monday denied 11 of its soldiers were shot dead by militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) after an attack on an oil pipeline.
''I have checked and I can confirm that the story is completely false,'' Army Spokesman, Brig.
Emeka Onwuamaegbu, said in a terse response to inquiries over the MEND claim.
In a message e-mail to journalists Monday, MEND claimed it killed 11 soldiers during an after attacking a Shell pipeline in Rivers state in the oil producing Niger Delta region.
``On Monday, May 26, 2008 at 0100 Hrs, backed by heavily armed fighters, detonation engineers from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) successfully sabotaged another major trunk pipeline at Awoba Flow Station in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State belonging to the Shell Petroleum Development Company,'' the group said.
It said the MEND fighters then encountered a military gunboat which opened fire ''blindly on the advance guard''.
``We flanked them in a counter-attack and killed in close combat all the drunken soldiers numbering eleven, collecting their weapons, ammunition's and bullet-proof vests before using dynamite to sink the gunboat with its dead occupants.
``The two traumatized adolescent girls found in the company of the soldiers were hurt, not from the skirmish, but from gang rape by the soldiers of the Nigerian army.
They were dropped off in the neighboring village by our men who have since returned safely to camp,'' MEND claimed.
It said Monday's attack was ''dedicated to the administration of Umaru Yar'Adua and (Vice President) Goodluck Jonathan, who have failed after one year in office to ensure peace, security and reconciliation in the Niger Delta region''.
Thousands of troops are deployed to the restive region to protect oil personnel and facilities.