USDOS – US Department of State (Author)
Overview: Terrorist groups active in Niger included the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa (ISIS-WA), and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), the group that formed after the Sahara Branch of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Murabitoun, Ansar al-Dine, and the Macina Liberation Front came together in 2017.
Terrorists freely crossed many of Niger’s borders. In the southeast, Boko Haram and ISIS-WA profited from porous borders with Chad and Nigeria to attack civilian and security targets in Niger’s Diffa region. Al-Qa’ida (AQ) and ISIS affiliates transited the Mali and Burkina Faso borders in the west to attack security targets in the Tillabery region and crossed the Libyan and, to a lesser extent, the Algerian borders in the Agadez region in the north. Terrorists, weapons, and contraband transited freely through the vast northern part of Niger.
Niger remained a strong opponent of terrorism in the region, continued to cooperate with international partners, and received substantial international counterterrorism assistance. From 2012 to the end of 2017, the Departments of Defense and State executed approximately US $240 million in security assistance, counterterrorism, and countering violent extremism (CVE) programming. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is programming an additional US $30.9 million, including US $16 million for USAID/Office of Transition Initiatives for CVE programs. Foreign assistance has helped the Nigerien military increase its capability to patrol, collect information, and interdict terrorists.
Niger is standing up the Central Sector Command Post in Niamey for the G-5 Sahel Joint Force. Niger conducted joint patrols with Chad and Nigeria as part of its increased cooperation with Lake Chad Basin Commission member countries in the fight against Boko Haram and ISIS‑WA. Niger has increased its number of border control facilities and is working with the international community to construct and equip these facilities.
Niger joined the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in 2017.
2017 Terrorist Incidents: Numerous terrorist attacks occurred in the Diffa and Tillabery regions, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries. Terrorist organizations frequently stole military vehicles and equipment that they then used in later attacks. Terrorist attacks in western Niger focused almost exclusively on security forces, while Boko Haram and ISIS-WA attacked both civilian and military targets in the southeast. Attacks included:
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Niger’s laws criminalize acts of terrorism consistent with international instruments. Nigerien law enforcement and security services were actively engaged in detecting, deterring, and preventing acts of terrorism on Nigerien territory, but they suffered from insufficient manpower, funding, and equipment. Counterterrorism investigations in Niger are primarily the responsibility of the Central Service for the Fight against Terrorism (SCLCT), an interagency body comprising representatives from Niger’s National Police, National Guard, and Gendarmerie. Information sharing occurred among the law enforcement agencies of SCLCT.
Niger’s long borders and vast areas of harsh terrain made effective border security a challenge. Through the U.S. Global Security Contingency Fund, a joint interagency program between the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice, and State, Niger developed a Draft National Border Security Strategy and corresponding Implementation Plan. Niger continued to use rudimentary terrorism watchlists that it shared with the security services and at border checkpoints. The Government of Niger continued to screen travelers using the U.S.-provided Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES). Niger is one of six African countries participating in the Security Governance Initiative to strengthen coordination among Niger’s military and law enforcement services.
In 2017, the SCLCT arrested 250 terrorist suspects on charges that included planning acts of terrorism, association with a terrorist organization, recruitment, and terrorist financing. Courts tried or dismissed approximately 550 terrorism cases. Approximately 1,100 terrorism suspects remained in detention awaiting trial at year’s end. While the law prohibits torture and degrading treatment, there were indications that security officials were sometimes involved in abusing or harming detainees suspected of terrorist activity.
The United States provided counterterrorism assistance to Nigerien law enforcement – including through the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program and a Resident Legal Advisor from the Department of Justice. ATA training included improvised explosive device awareness and command and control in support of Niger’s participation in the multilateral Flintlock exercise.
As part of a broader counterterrorism strategy, the United States is working with the Government of Niger to improve its capacity to employ forensic investigative tools. From April to May, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Defense collected the biometric information of more than 1,300 terrorism detainees and digitized more than 600 terrorism-linked paper fingerprint records. Niger is the only country in the region where terrorist suspects are identified systematically in a biometric enrollment initiative.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Niger is a member of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. There were no significant changes since 2016. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): The Government of Niger, through the High Authority for the Consolidation of Peace and the Ministry of Interior, increased its focus on CVE programs, although international partners and non-governmental organizations drove most of Niger’s programming. In May, the University of Diffa hosted an international Symposium on De-radicalization and Reintegration. The Ministry of Interior organized a high-level national conference, “Violent Extremism and Youth in Niger.”
In late December 2016, the Minister of Interior announced an amnesty policy for Boko Haram and ISIS-WA fighters who wished to defect. In 2017, 172 former fighters and affiliated non‑combatants officially defected, with 167 housed in a government-run camp in the Diffa region. The Government of Niger had not put forth a formal reintegration plan for former combatants by the end of 2017.
International and Regional Cooperation: In early 2017, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali signed an accord creating the Liptako-Gourma authority to direct security operations in the Tri-Border Region where ISIS-GS and AQ are active. In mid-2017, the Liptako-Gourma authority was folded into the G-5 Sahel Joint Force, a military effort fielded by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, to address security threats in the region. Niger was standing up the Central Sector Command, based in Niamey.
On a rotational basis, Niger deploys an infantry battalion to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.
Niger conducted joint patrols with Chad and Nigeria and increased its cooperation with Lake Chad Basin Commission member countries to fight Boko Haram and ISIS-WA. Nigerien officials hosted and attended multiple international meetings on countering the two groups. Niger is a member of and contributes troops to the Multinational Joint Task Force along with Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria.
Niger is a member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership. Nigerien officials continued to participate actively in regional programs organized by the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Sahel Region Capacity-Building and Criminal Justice/Rule of Law working groups. Niger participates in a judicial cooperation organization, the Sahel Judicial Platform, with other countries in the region.