LAGOS (Reuters) - U.S. and other Western interests in Nigeria are at risk of “terrorist attack”, the United States embassy in Africa’s top oil producer said on Thursday.
The official warning, in a message for U.S. citizens in Nigeria, gave few details, but said potential targets included official and commercial installations in the capital Abuja and the commercial city of Lagos.
“The U.S. Mission in Nigeria has received information that U.S. and other Western interests in Nigeria are currently at risk for terrorist attack,” the statement said.
In Washington, a U.S. official said the advisory was based on “very nonspecific threat information.”
“I’d steer you away from the idea that this was some major terror plot and I’d kind of point you more in the direction of things associated with Nigerian local kinds of actions,” said the U.S. State Department official, who asked not to be identified.
A private security consultant in Nigeria said he had also received a similar warning from the U.S. embassy which stated that the threat was seen until mid-October.
Militant attacks on multi-billion dollar Western oil facilities in the Niger Delta are common, but there has never been any large scale terrorist attack on Western targets outside the Niger Delta in the far south of the country.
Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe berated foreign diplomats on Wednesday over what he said were excessive concerns voiced by their countries about insecurity in the delta.
The U.S. and other Western states had warned their citizens against travel to the lawless region, where attacks have cut a fifth of Nigeria’s oil production capacity since early 2006.
Nigeria’s 140 million people are roughly equally split between Christians mostly in the south and Muslims in the north.
They co-exist peacefully most of the time but thousands have died in sporadic sectarian clashes since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999 after nearly three decades of army rule.
Analysts said the alert on Nigeria, which is the fifth largest oil supplier to the United States, could be related to the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.