A mysterious group called the Niger Delta Avengers has launched a series of strikes directed against underwater oil pipelines, putting a significant dent in Nigeria’s output of oil and appearing to tip the government into a economic recession. The attacks, directed against Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, and an Italian company called Eni SpA, are conducted by teams that descend underwater using diving equipment before employing explosive charges on the pipelines. Demonstrating a level of sophistication beyond previous Nigerian militants, be they MEND or Boko Haram, the identity of these underwater demolition teams remains a mystery.
Douw Steyn is the author of Iron Fist from the Sea a book about the history of his former unit, South Africa’s 4 Recce which specialized in maritime special operations including attack diving. Steyn told SOFREP, “The divers that do this operation are highly skilled and trained in the military or by instructors that left the military and know how to train individuals to became attack divers.” Attack diving, a specialized skill employed by 4 Recce could be compared to the underwater demolition operations that Navy SEALs are trained for.
Underwater demolitions are complicated in nature due difficulties in working in a sub-surface environment, and require long hours of training and rehearsals, as well as mission planning, and reconnaissance. “The target information is the most important information to have,” Steyn said “because with that information, you do your planning on what type of explosives, how many explosives and the depth of the charges. It also give you the specific place to put the bombs/mines, and of the weaknesses of the target the other point that will be planned in detail is the time delay on the mines, this is determined by the surroundings and means of transport the attackers are using [such as] small craft, submarines, and inflatables.”
Retired Delta Force operator and SOFREP contributing writer, George Hand, commented that the Niger Delta Avengers are too good to not have previous training. “They have gone unscathed for four years and hit countless targets successfully. The have an S-2 capability; there is an intelligence collection and dissemination of target value and priority. They are successfully storing explosives, and are hitting steel targets,” Hand who also served as an instructor at the Special Forces Combat Diver school said. “Diving is a skill, but we don’t know the difficulty level of the dives,” he continued. “Are they at night in (very likely) zero-vis at great depths?”