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Major disruption at Italian oil field in Nigeria

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Italian oil company Eni SpA said Wednesday a disruption at its subsidiary's Brass River oil operation had cut production back by 12,000 barrels a day in the Niger Delta, an area often beset by militant attacks.

A Eni spokesman told The Associated Press the disruption occurred Wednesday and pushed the company into declaring force majeure — meaning it is impossible for the oil company to cover the promised supply from the field.

The company had teams in the field to explore its pipelines there to see what caused the disruption, according to the spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with company policy.

He did not rule out a possible attack by militants in the region, who have waged a low-level war against oil companies since January 2006 over the pollution and poverty affecting the Niger Delta.

Lt. Col. Timothy Antigha, a military spokesman, confirmed the disruption but said he didn't know if militants played any part in the attack.

"At the moment, it is not alleged that it was," Antigha said.

A spokesman for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the region's largest militant group, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Eni's subsidiary, Agip, runs the Brass River operation in concert with the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. At its height, the oil fields and processing plant around the town of Brass exported some 200,000 barrels of oil daily.

Houston-based ConocoPhillips also has a stake in the operation.