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Islamic State launched deadly attack on military in south-western region, confirming increase in jihadist violence since July coup; France began troop withdrawal.
Major attack confirmed rise in jihadist violence in south west. In Tahoua region, Islamic State-Sahel Province (IS Sahel) 2 Oct ambushed military in Tabatol village, Tillia department; govt claimed 29 soldiers killed though locals reported total may be much higher. Recrudescence of jihadist attacks reported in neighbouring Tillabery region since July coup continued. IS Sahel militants 10 Oct killed 11 civilians in Karkatia village, Bankilare department, and 16 Oct clashed with troops in several areas of Bankilare and Tera departments, reportedly leading to dozens of casualties on both sides.
Standoff with France and others continued. French soldiers early Oct began withdrawal from Tillabery region; departure of 1,500 troops due to be completed by year’s end will likely cause logistical, security, and political challenges. Govt 10 Oct also expelled UN resident coordinator in Niger, Louise Aubin, citing “underhanded manoeuvres” by UN, including non-accreditation of Niger’s representatives at international conferences. Meanwhile, U.S. same day formally acknowledged July military takeover was coup, suspended $500mn in development aid.
Algiers’ mediation attempt suffered setback. Niamey 3 Oct denied having accepted Algerian mediation promoting six-month transition to restore constitutional order, emphasised transition duration could only be decided by “inclusive national forum”, and Algiers 9 Oct announced putting mediation efforts on hold pending “clarifications” (see Algeria).
In another important development. Authorities 19 Oct alleged deposed President Bazoum attempted to escape from house arrest with help of local and foreign actors, though those close to former president denied claim. Public prosecutor at Niamey court of appeal 31 Oct said investigation was under way and 23 people had been arrested in connection with case.
Junta signed mutual defence pact with Mali and Burkina Faso, bolstering united putschist front in central Sahel; uptick in jihadist violence continued in south west as attention of top military brass remained focused on Niamey.
Niamey drew closer to other military-led neighbours. As West African regional bloc ECOWAS continued to threaten force to restore constitutional order, Niamey 12 Sept denounced military cooperation agreement with Cotonou, accusing Benin of “planning an aggression” against Niger. Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso 16 Sept signed charter creating Alliance of Sahel States in bid to establish framework for collective defence and mutual assistance.
Junta continued rupture with former colonial power. Junta 1 Sept accused French President Macron of instrumentalizing ECOWAS for “neo-colonial project”, and tens of thousands 2 Sept rallied in capital Niamey and south-western Ouallam town to demand departure of French forces. Paris 24 Sept announced end of military cooperation with Niger and departure of French soldiers by year’s end. France’s ambassador to Niger 27 Sept returned to Paris, one month after junta ordered him to leave. Meanwhile, U.S. military 14 Sept resumed flying drones and aircraft out of its bases in Niger following negotiations with junta.
Uptick in violence continued in south-western Tillabery region. Islamic State Sahel Province (IS Sahel) 1 Sept killed three people in Doukou Tegui village, Tillabery department. Govt forces 4 Sept reported thwarting al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) ambush near Ouro Gueladjo, Say department, killing around ten suspected fighters. IS Sahel fighters 13 Sept killed community leader in Garin Wadey town, Abala department. Suspected jihadist militants 28 Sept killed at least a dozen soldiers in Kandadji town, Tillabery department.
In other important developments. Transitional govt 14 Sept announced opening of consultations at local level as prelude to national dialogue, thereby following in footsteps of Mali and Burkina Faso, where national dialogues held shortly after coups helped legitimise military rule; Niamey however did not set date for dialogue. Meanwhile, former PM and prominent opponent to deposed President Bazoum, Hama Amadou, 11 Sept returned to Niger after two-year exile in France.
West African regional bloc continued to threaten use of force to restore constitutional order; move could trigger major pushback and put Niger and wider region at risk of war.
ECOWAS maintained threat of force to restore constitutional order. Military junta 6 Aug closed Niger’s airspace as West African regional bloc (ECOWAS) seven-day ultimatum to hand power back to elected President Bazoum expired. ECOWAS 10 Aug activated standby force for possible action against junta and 18 Aug reportedly set “D-Day” for military intervention. Regional bloc, which appears divided over course of action, 19 Aug sent delegation to Niger to press coup leader Gen. Tchiani and other junta figures for peaceful return to constitutional order.
Coup leaders found common ground with counterparts in Sahel. Military authorities in Bamako and Ouagadougou 1 Aug jointly said any ECOWAS military intervention in Niger would amount to declaration of war against Mali and Burkina Faso. Senior junta leader, Gen. Salifou Mody, next day met with Malian and Burkinabe transitional presidents in their respective capitals. Coup leaders continued to capitalise on ill feelings toward former colonial power. Junta 25 Aug ordered French ambassador in Niamey, Sylvain Itte, to leave country within 48 hours; French President Macron 28 Aug said Itte would stay at his post, reportedly prompting junta in following days to order police to expel him.
Junta proposed three-year transition to civilian rule. Junta 7 Aug appointed former Finance Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine as interim PM, and 10 Aug announced 21-member interim govt with military officers in charge of six ministries, including defence and interior, and Bazoum’s party holding no ministries. Gen. Tchiani 19 Aug said transition to civilian rule would “not go beyond three years”; also warned ECOWAS that security forces would “not shirk” from defending country. ECOWAS 21 Aug rejected three-year transition plan as “unacceptable”.
Jihadists launched deadliest attacks on military in months. Possibly emboldened by political upheaval in Niamey, suspected jihadists 15 Aug ambushed military detachment near Koutougou town, Tillabery region (south west), killing 17 soldiers and wounding another 24. Another ambush 20 Aug killed 12 soldiers in Anzourou commune, also Tillabery, with military reporting “heavy losses” among assailants.
Presidential guards deposed President Bazoum, extending coup belt and resulting instability sweeping West Africa.
Presidential guards staged coup overthrowing Bazoum. Presidential guards 26 July sealed off presidential palace in capital Niamey and detained President Bazoum. Putschists 26-27 July suspended constitution, dissolved govt and state institutions and closed borders, claiming “continued degradation of the security situation” and “poor economic and social governance” pushed them to act. Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Abdou Sidikou Issa, 27 July said military would not intervene against coup leaders, purportedly to avoid bloodbath in Niamey, de facto backing putschists. Head of Presidential Guard, Gen. Abderrahmane Tchiani, 28 July appeared on state TV and declared himself head of new ruling junta, National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP). Thousands of pro-junta protesters 30 July marched in Niamey waving Russian flags and stormed French embassy, drawing tear gas from French security. CNSP 31 July detained head of Bazoum’s party and four ministers. Coup prompted international condemnation. Notably, West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS 26 July condemned “attempt to seize power by force” and called on putschists to free Bazoum “immediately and without any condition”; 30 July imposed sanctions, including national assets freeze, and threatened force if coup leaders fail to reinstate ousted Bazoum within a week.
Low-level insecurity persisted in Tillabery region (south west). Al-Qaeda-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants 4 July killed three civilians in Ourogo village, Say department. Islamic State Sahel Province (IS Sahel) fighters 7 July killed one gendarme and wounded another in Ayorou department. JNIM 14 July ambushed transport convoy under military escort near Niakatire locality, Torodi department, killing one gendarme and four civilians, and wounding 19 others; two militants also killed. Meanwhile, reports around 10 July emerged that Nigerien and French forces 6-7 July captured two high-level IS Sahel leaders; observers 12 July however claimed reports were case of mistaken identity.
Low-level jihadist violence persisted notably in south east, and reports emerged of Arab tribesmen from Niger fighting in Sudan.
Sporadic violence from Boko Haram factions continued in Diffa region (south east). Suspected members of JAS faction of Boko Haram 9 June killed three Nigerian youths in Bosso department. Military vehicle 16 June hit explosive device likely planted by Islamic State West Africa Province militants near Chetima Wangou locality, Diffa department, leaving seven soldiers dead.
Mediation efforts made headway in Tillabery region (south west). Military around 3 June killed five suspected militants of Islamic State Sahel Province or al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and arrested another eight in Tera department. Arab, Fulani, Djerma and Tuareg communities of Ouallam department 4 June signed peace agreement in Tondikiwindi village, committing to resolving differences peacefully and “forgive past acts”; deal was supported by national peacebuilding body Haute autorité à la consolidation de la paix, testifying to Niger’s multidimensional approach to insecurity relative to its neighbours.
In other important developments. In Agadez region (north), suspected bandits 9 June attacked Tchibarakaten gold mining site in Iferouane area; army repelled attack, killing three assailants and detaining another. Lt. Gen. Shams al-Din Kabbashi, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Sudanese Armed Forces, 9 June accused rival Rapid Support Forces of recruiting mercenaries from Arab tribes notably in Niger.
President Bazoum maintained hard-line approach toward critics of French military presence, and deadly violence persisted in region bordering Burkina Faso.
Govt arrested critics of security partnership with France. Govt 2 May accused civil society group Union Committee Tillabery for Peace, Security and Social Cohesion of “sowing disorder” after group late April accused French forces of seeking to destabilise Niger and demanded their departure; police same day detained group’s leader Amadou Arouna Maïga.
Tillabéry region (south west) saw jihadist and intercommunal violence. In Gotheye department, military convoy 7 May hit explosive device likely planted by al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims near Samira Hill gold mine, leaving seven soldiers dead. Suspected Islamic State Sahel Province militants 3-13 May attacked villages in Tillabery’s Téra department, killing at least eight people. Meanwhile, in Tillabery department, clashes late April-early May erupted between sedentary Djerma and nomadic Fulani communities in Dessa, Kandadji and Ayorou communes, leaving at least ten people dead and up to 18,000 displaced, who mid-May returned home.
Security operations continued along Nigerian border in south east. Military 10 May announced intercepting 1,400 Boko Haram militants since March as they fled into Diffa region following clashes with rival Islamic State faction in Nigeria’s Borno state; 30 combatants also killed during operations. Military 29 May said joint operation with Nigerian army 6-28 May left 55 Islamic State West Africa Province militants dead in Niger-Nigeria border regions, including several senior commanders.
President Bazoum reshuffled military leadership as small-scale jihadist violence persisted, notably in south east; high-level visits showcased Niger’s new role as Western countries’ preferred partner in the Sahel.
Low-level violence continued in Diffa region and returned to Agadez region. In likely effort to place men closer to him in command of military, Bazoum 1 April named new army chief of staff, while defence minister 13 April named new chief of gendarmerie. Meanwhile in Diffa region (south east), IEDs likely planted by Boko Haram faction Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) 9-15 April killed several soldiers and one civilian in Diffa and Bosso departments. Also in Diffa, rival Boko Haram faction (JAS) 15-17 April abducted at least three civilians in N’Guigmi department. In rare attack in northern Agadez region, unidentified gunmen 9 April ambushed gold convoy under military protection near Arlit town, leaving five soldiers dead and another five wounded.
Court sentenced civil society leader to prison. Court in capital Niamey 14 April sentenced coordinator of opposition coalition M62, Abdoulaye Seydou, to nine months in prison for “disseminating information that could disturb public order” after he accused armed forces of killing civilians.
High-level visits from Western actors continued. German defence minister and economic cooperation minister 12 April met with Nigerien counterparts in capital Niamey, said Niger would be “the focus of our future military engagement in the Sahel” as Berlin plans to withdraw from UN mission in Mali by May 2024. German parliament 28 April approved deployment of up to 60 troops to Niger as part of planned EU training mission.
Security forces conducted large-scale counter-insurgency operations, and Niamey continued to strengthen security cooperation with regional and international partners.
Govt forces stepped up operations against jihadists in Diffa, Tillabery regions. In Diffa region (south east), armed forces around 11 March reportedly killed about 30 suspected Boko Haram (JAS faction) combatants near Nigerian border in Diffa department, and arrested 960 militants and family members; week of 13-19 March reportedly killed around 20 and arrested 83 suspected combatants of Boko Haram splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province in N’Guigmi department. Also in Diffa, suspected JAS elements 11 March killed nine civilians abducted two days prior near Toumour village (Bosso department). In Tillabery region (south west), presumed Islamic State Sahel Province (IS-Sahel) 1 March killed one civilian in Ayorou commune (Tillabery department); al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims 4 March attacked police station in Makalondi village (Torodi department), killing one civilian; govt 24 March reported that combined air-ground operation previous week killed 79 jihadist militants (likely IS-Sahel) in Banibangou area and across border in Mali’s Hamakat area.
Authorities pursued regional and international diplomacy. In sign of possible rapprochement between Niamey and Bamako, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Salifou Mody 9 March met with Malian Interim President Col. Goïta in Mali’s capital Bamako; Gen. Mody reportedly asked Mali to allow Nigerien forces to pursue jihadists into Mali. Niger’s National Security Council same day announced closure of land border with Mali’s Ménaka region in attempt to hamper cross-border militancy. President Bazoum 13 March travelled to Benin and 20 March to Togo to discuss security and economic cooperation with his counterparts. Meanwhile, in first-ever visit to Niger by top U.S. diplomat, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 16 March met with Bazoum in capital Niamey.
Military court sentenced several soldiers to prison for role in 2021 coup attempt, disinformation campaign targeted President Bazoum; deadly jihadist violence continued, notably in south west.
Trial of 2021 coup attempt concluded, fake news about new coup circulated online. Military court 24 Feb sentenced 27 people, mainly soldiers, to prison terms for involvement in March 2021 coup attempt during transition between former President Issoufou and President Bazoum. During trial, two mid-level officers admitted to playing role in coup plot, while many defendants claimed without evidence that coup attempt was false flag operation organised by Issoufou to eliminate dissenting officers from military. Rumours of new coup attempt throughout month circulated on social media in apparent bid to destabilise Bazoum, who has expressed vocal opposition to Mali and Burkina Faso’s military regimes and has remained committed to military cooperation with France; govt 17 Feb denied coup, denounced “malicious messages” and attempts to create “psychosis” among population.
Deadly attacks targeted civilians and govt forces, notably near Malian border. In Tahoua region (south west), suspected Islamic State-Sahel Province (IS-Sahel) combatants 1 Feb attacked displaced persons camp near Tillia village (Tchintabaraden department), which hosts Dawsahak people from Mali, leaving at least 18 dead. In Tillabery region (also south west), presumed IS-Sahel militants 10 Feb killed 17 soldiers, with another 13 wounded and 12 missing, in ambush near Intagarmey village (Banibangou department). In Maradi region (south), unidentified armed group 12 Feb attacked Oumba village (Madarounfa department), killing two civilians, wounding seven and abducting at least eight.
Jihadist violence continued to fuel insecurity in south west and south east; local peace agreement between communities of Banibangou municipality revived hope for resolution of longstanding conflict.
Islamic State continued driving insecurity in Tillabery region in south west. Govt forces 8 Jan reportedly killed four suspected Islamic State Sahel Province (IS-Sahel) fighters and arrested another three near Taroum town (Ouallam department), also losing two soldiers; 18 Jan reportedly killed 11 suspected jihadists and detained another six near Doulgou village (Gotheye department), with local sources alleging unknown number of those killed were Fulani civilians. Suspected IS-Sahel elements 10 Jan killed two civilians near Téra town (Téra department); 12 Jan attacked Doukou Koira Tegui village (Tillabery department), killing two and wounding seven residents.
Boko Haram factions kidnapped civilians in Diffa region in south east. Suspected Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction of Boko Haram 7 Jan kidnapped two people in Gremari locality (Maine Soroa department); next day kidnapped five children in Maissirodi village (Diffa department). Suspected Boko Haram (JAS) militants 18 Jan kidnapped at least four women in Rimi village (N’Guigmi department).
In other important developments. Representatives of Zarma and Fulani communities in Banibangou municipality (Ouallam department, Tillabery region) around 23 Jan signed peace agreement to end longstanding conflict fuelled notably by competition for natural resources. Ruling party late Dec elected former President Issoufou’s ally Foumakoye Gado as party president, highlighting Issoufou’s continuing influence within party and in state matters.
Govt secured major international financial support for development plan, with pledges exceeding initial expectations; jihadist violence persisted, albeit at lower levels.
Govt’s development plan garnered financial support from international partners. President Bazoum 5-6 Dec travelled to French capital Paris for fundraising event to finance Niger’s 2022-2026 socio-economic development plan, which aims to reduce poverty rate from 43% in 2022 to 35% in 2026. Public and private donors including World Bank, African Development Bank and UN reportedly promised €31.4bn in support, twice as much as initially hoped for, confirming that Niger is now international institutions’ primary partner in Sahel region.
Levels of violence decreased in Tillabery and Diffa regions. In Tillabery region (south west), suspected Islamic State Sahel Province combatants 2 Dec killed four people near Kokorbe village (Ouallam department); suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims attack on police position in Say town (Say department) 5 Dec left one militant and two civilians dead; unidentified gunmen next day reportedly killed national guard in Ayorou town (Tillabery department). In Diffa region (south east), unidentified gunmen 5 Dec killed national guard in Diffa town (Diffa department); Boko Haram militants (likely JAS faction) 22 Dec clashed with armed forces between Bagué and Tchoungoua localities (N’Guimi department), leaving five jihadists dead and two soldiers wounded.
In other important developments. National Commission on Human Rights 27 Dec concluded armed forces did not commit abuses during late Oct counter-insurgency operation in Tamou village (Say department, Tillabery region), despite allegations by civil society movement M62 that airstrikes had killed many civilians.
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