LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Shell Nigeria says an explosion and fire caused by oil theft have forced it to shut down its Trans Niger Pipeline that carries 150,000 barrels of crude a day.

Thursday's statement said the theft of oil, known as bunkering, caused the conflagration at Bodo West in Ogoniland. The area in southern Nigeria already has suffered decades of oil spills.

Shell's Nigeria Director Mutiu Sunmonu described "another sad reminder of the tragic consequences of crude oil theft."

Environmental activists accuse Shell Nigeria of using oil theft as an excuse to cover up accidental spills. The company has to compensate local communities for spills not caused by theft.

"Sabotage is a problem in Nigeria, but Shell exaggerates this issue to avoid criticism for its failure to prevent oil spills," Audrey Gaughran of Amnesty International said.

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