Nigeria army says arrests man behind Delta police killings

YENAGOA, Nigeria Fri Jun 7, 2013 1:57pm EDT

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YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) - The suspected mastermind behind an ambush in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta in April that killed 12 policemen has been arrested, the military said on Friday.

A police boat escorting people to a funeral in President Goodluck Jonathan's home state of Bayelsa was attacked on April 5 by armed militants who were trying to kill their former commander because he was not giving them their share of stipends due from a government amnesty.

"The suspect before you is Jackson Fabouwei. He is mastermind of the dastardly act of 5 April," Faroqu Yahaya, chief of staff of the Niger Delta military joint task force, told reporters.

"He was arrested on 6 June ... through sound intelligence gathering efforts. The suspect will be handed over to the police for further necessary investigation and prosecution."

At the time, the attack raised fears of a return to violent unrest in the oil-producing Niger Delta, when militants used to hit oil installations in raids that at their height in 2006 cut out around half of the OPEC member's crude production.

But the violence has not been repeated, and analysts say the generous payoffs being received by militant commanders mean the delta is likely to remain quiet.

The 2009 amnesty halted the unrest, although it has been replaced by widespread oil theft and kidnapping by pirates off the coast of the swampy Delta region - criminality seen as almost as much a security headache as armed militancy.

(Reporting by Tife Owolabi; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Tim Cocks/Mark Heinrich)

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