LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) — Bishop Gabriel Dunia of Auchi, Nigeria has asked warring parties in the Niger Delta to put aside their weapons and allow peace to return to the region. The bishop’s June 9 appeal came on the heels of a report that Nigerian soldiers had uncovered two graves containing the bodies of 12 Nigerian troops who had been missing for nearly a month. Violence has flared off and on since mid-May when President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua ordered a crackdown on ethnic militias, which have been implicated in a series of attacks on the country’s oil industry in recent months.
Government forces have accused the rebels of killing soldiers deployed to protect oil firms and personnel in the region. Members of the ethnic militias, known as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, maintain they are fighting on behalf of the impoverished people living in the region. The rebel movement, which came to prominence in 2005, has been accused of being behind kidnappings of oil workers, extortion, vandalism of oil facilities and the theft of crude oil.