By Danielle Gwozdz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
NIAMEY, NIGER – Suicide bombers affiliated with the jihadist Mujao group (movement for unity and jihad in West Africa) attacked two locations in Niger around 5:30 A.M. on May 23.
The first attack occurred at a barracks in Agadez, the largest city in northern Niger. This attack killed about 19 people, including 18 soldiers and one civilian. The suicide bombers drove a Toyota truck through the barrier of the town’s military base and detonated the explosives when soldiers opened fire. An Agadez resident, Barka Sofa, said he heard a strong explosion outside the army base, followed by heavy weapons’ fire. A local journalist reported heavy damage inside the camp.
The second attack occurred 30 minutes later and 150 miles north of Agadez in the Somair mines in the town of Arlit. One person died and roughly 50 people were injured, mostly security agents at the mine. A man driving a 4×4 packed with explosives had been mixed in with Somair workers. Once his vehicle was in front of the mine he blew up the vehicle.
The mine in Arlit is controlled by a French-run operation, Avera, the world’s second largest uranium producer, which extracts more than one-third of uranium from Niger and has been operating there for more than 40 years. Areva stated that the mine had been “badly damaged” and they were forced to stop production.
Four of the Mujao attackers died in the explosions, while one is still alive and is holding four army officers hostage.
The jihadist Mujao group is part of a loose Islamist coalition which seized control of North Mali last year before being ousted by a French-led offensive in January. Niger has been singled out because of its role in the military intervention in Mali and for its relationship with France and the United States, which signed an agreement this year to establish a new military base in the country.
A jihadist Mujao spokesman stated that they attacked these two locations in Niger because they were “enemies of Islam” and referred to Niger and France’s involvement in combating Islamists in Mali.
This attack occurred four months after a previous terrorist attack in neighboring Algeria. Al-Qaeda linked militants seized a desert gas plant in a siege that left 38 hostages dead and had been in retaliation against the intervention in Mali.
Niger states that the attacks had been an inevitable consequence of the government’s decisions to intervene in Mali. However, it states that the intervention had not been a mistake because it shares borders with Mali and would have been affected by the crisis regardless of its intervention.
French President Francois Hollande vowed to help Niger “destroy” the militants and would back all efforts of Niger to stop the hostage situation. However, it will not intervene as it had in Mali, but has the same willingness to cooperate to fight against terrorism.
For further information, please see:
BBC News – Niger Suicide Bombers Target Areva Mine and Barracks – 24 May 2013
Africa Review – 19 Killed in Niger Suicide Bomb Strike – 23 May 2013
The Dawn News – At Least 20 Killed in Al Qaeda-Linked Militant Attacks in Niger – 23 May 2013
The Guardian – Suicide Attacks Rock Niger – 23 May 2013
Ahram Online – Islamist Bombers Kill 20 in Niger Attacks, Seize Hostages – 23 May 2013
Yahoo! News – Islamist Bombers Kill 20 in Niger, Seize Hostages – 23 May 2013