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Military claims 100 attackers killed in central Nigeria
by Staff Writers
Jos, Nigeria (AFP) July 03, 2013

Nigerian president to visit China next week
Abuja (AFP) July 03, 2013 - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan will visit China next week in a trip aimed at signing infrastructure deals and boosting trade between the Asian power and Africa's biggest oil producer, officials said Wednesday.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, has borrowed money from China to finance infrastructure projects, and Beijing has shown increasing interest in Nigeria's oil industry.

Jonathan will during the state visit, which will run from July 9 to 12, meet President Xi Jinping, premier Li Keqiang, some Chinese leaders and businessmen, a statement from his Abuja office said.

"We want to build trade and economic relationships and we want to have a good exchange of knowledge," Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told reporters.

She said that the visit aims to "increase trade, get them to increase investment in Nigeria and get a strategic long-term relationship".

"We want to up our trade volume with China of non-oil goods. This is our objective because we want to diversify our economy," she said.

Oil accounts for some 80 percent of government revenue in Nigeria.

Trade and Investment Minister Olusegun Aganga put trade volume between the two countries at $13 billion dollars (10 billion euros) in 2012, up from about $2 billion in 2005.

Jonathan and Chinese investors will participate in Nigeria/China investment forum. He will also hold meetings with executives of Chinese conglomerates such as Huawei, Sinopec and ZTE, the statement said.

Deals involving loans amounting to some $1.3 billion for areas including electricity and airport construction are expected to be signed during the visit.

The airport projects would be carried out by Chinese firm CCECC, Aviation Minister Stella Oduah said.

China has invested heavily in African nations in recent years in its search for natural resources and markets for its goods.

It has had mixed success in Nigeria, particularly concerning oil, where Western firms such as Shell and ExxonMobil continue to dominate.

Chinese energy firm Addax, owned by Sinopec, has said it was seeking further growth in Nigeria after the recent purchase of a significant offshore stake from France's Total.

In February, Addax said it was producing more than 90,000 barrels per day from four licenses in Nigeria, mainly in the shallower offshore areas.

Nigeria's total production is around 2.0 million barrels per day.

A military commander claimed on Wednesday that soldiers had since last week killed more than 100 attackers responsible for a deadly raid in ethnically divided central Nigeria.

The military has come under major pressure over last week's attack which killed at least 28 residents and the commander's information could not be independently verified.

"So far we have killed more than 100 of the attackers before we succeeded in securing the areas," Major General Henry Ayoola, who commands a task force in the region, told reporters.

Violence on June 27 saw gunmen raid three villages in the remote Langtang region of Plateau state. Homes were also burnt in two other villages.

Some local officials have put the death toll from the attacks higher, saying as many as 70 people were killed.

The attacks appeared to have been reprisals linked to cattle theft, often the source of friction in the Middle Belt region dividing the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south of Africa's most populous nation.

The military came under criticism over an alleged slow response to the attack and has since sought to defend itself.

"Before the gunmen retreated, we had killed over 20 of them," Ayoola said.

"My troops traced them in their direction and gunned down several of them days after the attack. So far we have killed more than 100 of the attackers before we succeeded in securing the areas."

The villages attacked were Karkashi, Bolgang and Magama, and residents said the raids followed incidents of cattle rustling.

Herdsmen from the mainly Muslim Fulani ethnic group were suspected to be behind the raids on the villages populated by the mainly Christian Taroks.

Thousands have been killed in Nigeria's central region in recent years in clashes between Muslim and Christian ethnic groups in a struggle for access to land or local power.

Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, mainly based in the country's northeast, has occasionally carried out violence in the Middle Belt as well, but there was no sign of any link to last week's violence.

Nigeria's military is currently engaged in an offensive in the northeast seeking to end Boko Haram's four-year insurgency.

The country includes some 250 ethnic groups, and illegal weapons are widespread. Authorities have been largely unable to stop such violent flare-ups.

Vigilante groups often form in areas hit by such attacks to defend themselves, in some cases provoking a cycle of deadly attacks and reprisals.

Nigeria, a country of some 160 million people, is also Africa's largest oil producer.


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