Country Report on Terrorism 2009 - Chapter 2 - Niger

The Nigerien government’s counterterrorism program has improved to include the use of updated terrorist watch lists, more consistent border patrols, and regular monitoring of mosques believed to espouse extremist views. Border crossings were not automated and relied on handwritten ledgers to record entry and exit. The government has been receptive to Western and regional counterterrorism training and is a Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership country. Niger also works with other regional partners and organizations to support its counterterrorism efforts, notably the Algerian-led counterterrorism coalition comprised of Algeria, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania.

Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) demonstrated a greater interest in Niger in 2009, with attempts to extend its influence into Nigerien territory from the largely ungoverned region bordering Mali and Algeria. The porous borders and ungoverned spaces provide terrorist groups such as AQIM a potential environment for recruiting, people and contraband smuggling, undetected transit, and logistical facilitation. Niger’s severe resource constraints stemming from its status as one of the poorest countries in the world, and the ongoing political crisis, hampered the Nigerien government’s ability to prevent AQIM intrusion.

On December 14, 2008, AQIM-affiliated persons kidnapped and held hostage UN Special Envoy, Robert Fowler, his colleague, Louis Guay, and a local Nigerien driver. They were seized by AQIM within 40 kilometers of Niamey, taken across the Mali border and held hostage in the Sahara desert for 130 days before being released. On January 22, 2009, along the Mali/Niger border, AQIM-affiliated persons kidnapped four European tourists near the Niger/Mali border and held them hostage in the Sahara desert. Three of the European hostages were released months later, but one British hostage was killed.

In October, an AQIM-linked Mauritanian was captured in Niamey following his involvement in terrorist related activities outside Niger.

On November 14, AQIM associates armed with AK-47 assault rifles attempted to kidnap five U.S. Embassy personnel from a hotel in Tahoua. The failed operation was believed to have been sanctioned by AQIM leaders. The perpetrators of this attempted kidnapping have yet to be captured.

Although the rise of violent extremist organizations in northern Nigeria has yet to directly impact southern Niger, a very real threat exists. Northern Nigeria and southern Niger share a common Hausa ethnicity, numerous economic and cultural links, and a long, porous border. Immediately following the July 2009 Nigerien break-up of the Boko Haram[3] group, Nigerien ties to the group were revealed when dozens of Boko Haram members were deported from Nigeria to their home cities in southern Niger.