By Tife Owolabi
YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigerian militant group the Niger Delta Avengers said it attacked an oil pipeline in Nigeria's restive southern energy hub on Tuesday and warned international oil companies (IOCs) not to carry out repairs on damaged energy infrastructure.
Nigeria's oil output, typically close to 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd), fell to less than 1.3 million bpd this spring as militants bombed energy facilities. But, amid a ceasefire announced by the Avengers in August, the petroleum ministry said oil production had risen to 1.9 million bpd.
The Avengers, which declared the break in hostilities to pursue talks with the government, said on its website that the group "took down Chevron Escravos export pipeline at Escravos offshore" at around 3:45 a.m. (0445 GMT).
"This action is to further warn all IOCs that when we warn that there should be no repairs pending negotiation/dialogue with the people of the Niger Delta, it means there should be no repairs," it said on its website.
Collins Edema, a local community leader, said: "We heard of it at the offshore but no one can ascertain the extent of the damage." A Chevron spokeswoman could not immediately be reached.
The group has said it wants a greater share of the OPEC member's wealth to go to the Niger Delta, where most of the country's crude is produced. Government sources told Reuters the government would hold a meeting with community leaders and militant representatives next week.
It said any attempt to use talks with the government as a distraction "will halt the dialogue process". It is the first attack claimed by the Avengers since late September, when it said it attacked a crude export line as a "wake-up call".
(Additional reporting by Libby George in London; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Dale Hudson)