Seven people have been killed during security patrols in the Niger Delta, prompting fears of an escalation in the violence in the region.

Five people, including two policemen, were killed in a shootout with criminal gangs on Wednesday in the Emohua district of the oil city of Port Harcourt, police said.

In the second incident, troops killed two suspected militants and captured two more when their patrol boat ran into a militant speed boat on the Cawthorne Channel in Rivers state on Tuesday and engaged it in a gunfight. “Our patrol ran into some militants. We killed two of them, captured two and also a large quantity of arms,” a military source said, asking not to be named. “The people we got appear to be top in their hierarchy so we should get a lot of information from them.”

The Cawthorne Channel clash occurred close to a camp where the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) held two Italian oil workers hostage for three months until their release last month.