Nigeria says 19 Cameroon troops killed in Bakassi

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LAGOS, Nov 13 (Reuters) An unknown armed group killed 19 Cameroonian soldiers in Bakassi, a border region handed back to Cameroon by Nigeria last year, a senior Nigerian government source said today.

The source said no Nigerian armed forces were involved in the incident yesterday and Nigerian troops had also been attacked by gunmen in the same area within the last week.

''The Cameroonian gendarmes in Bakassi were attacked by an unknown armed group which killed 19, wounded six and made away with some arms and ammunitions,'' said the source, who did not wish to be named. The Nigerian Defence Headquarters was due to issue a statement later.

''Our soldiers were not involved and I gather there was also an attack on our naval men at a coastal town called Ibeka within the same territory in the last week but no lives were lost,'' he said.

Defence spokesman Solomon Giwa-Amu said the attackers could have been Nigerian criminals but details of the clash were unclear. He was certain, though, that no member of the Nigerian armed forces was involved.

''It's very unfortunate,'' he said.

''We are willing to cooperate with Cameroon to investigate this incident. All our resources are at their disposal to ensure that the criminals are brought to justice.'' Officials in Cameroon's foreign and defence ministries could neither confirm nor deny the report.

The disputed Bakassi peninsula, which has oil deposits, was a source of tension between the two countries for years until former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo handed it over to Cameroon in 2006.

On the Nigerian side of the border, the oil-producing Niger Delta has been plagued by crime and militancy, with numerous gangs carrying out attacks on the oil industry, kidnappings and armed robberies.

REUTERS SBC VC2248

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