Rebels in Niger released 30 wounded soldiers to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today in the Sahara desert. The rebel group Niger Movement for Justice (NMJ) has carried out a number of raids on military targets in the northern region. Last week they killed 15 soldiers and took dozens hostage during a raid on a remote army outpost. The 30 most seriously wounded were released, however several hostages still remain.
Niger is a former French colony whose vast desert has long been a location and hotbed of dissent, which has largely been beyond the government’s control. Niger’s government, more than 1,000 km away in the capital, is hoping to cash in on the vast reserves of uranium by granting dozens of new exploration permits, particularly to the Chinese.
The NMJ has come out strongly against this proposed plan. A spokesman told Reuters that they “condemn what’s being done: giving extraction, exploitation and exploration permits to China. … They’re not welcome because they don’t work with locals, they don’t employ locals, and they respect the environment even less.”
The MNJ claims their campaign against the government is also in retaliation for the arbitrary arrests and killing of civilians in the north during security clampdowns. At least 33 soldiers have been killed since the rebels launched their campaign in February.
For more information please see:
BBC – Niger Rebels Free Wounded Troops – 29 June 2007
Independence – Niger rebels hand prisoners to Red Cross – 28 June 2007
Reuters – Niger rebels hand wounded prisoners to Red Cross – 28 June 2007
Reuters – Sahara Uranium – 27 June 2007