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Suspected jihadists targeted foreign humanitarian workers near capital Niamey, while counter-insurgency operations continued in south east. In first jihadist attack in Tillabery region’s Kollo department, suspected Islamic State militants 9 Aug killed eight including six French humanitarian workers and two Nigeriens in Kouré National Park, 60km east of Niamey; French prosecutors 10 Aug opened investigation into attack and France 12 Aug designated whole country except Niamey as red zone, highest level of security risk; Niger’s national security council same day extended state of emergency to entire Tillabery region except Niamey, and govt 18 Aug said security forces had arrested one suspect amid ongoing security operations in area. In Diffa region in south east, security forces 17 Aug carried out cross-border operation into Nigeria and freed eleven civilians, whom Boko Haram combatants had kidnapped 11-12 Aug in two villages of Gueskerou commune. Misappropriation of defence funds involving senior state officials, first revealed in Feb, continued to spark controversy. Confidential govt audit of defence spending leaked early Aug alleged over $137mn of public money have been lost to corruption in govt procurement of defence material since 2011.
Jihadist violence continued in south east and south west, while opposition voiced concern over electoral framework ahead of Dec elections. In south-eastern Diffa region along border with Nigeria, Boko Haram factions continued campaign of abductions and attacks against civilians. Suspected Boko Haram militants, or members of splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), 1 July reportedly killed five people in N’Garoua Gana village and 9 July abducted up to nine women and children in Njibouloua village in N’Guigmi area; suspected Boko Haram militants same day abducted 15 people in Kindjandi town. Jihadists and bandits’ attacks on villages and livestock raids continued in south-western Tillabery region near Burkina Faso. Nine humanitarian workers taken hostage by suspected jihadists in Bossey Bangou village late June were released 1 July. Suspected Islamic State militants 3 July killed village chief and two other civilians in Filingue area and 9 July killed two Fulani community leaders in Ayorou area. In white paper published 23 July, main opposition parties called for inclusive political dialogue to discuss revision of electoral framework ahead of presidential and legislative elections scheduled for 27 Dec. Electoral commission same day postponed municipal and regional elections planned for Nov until 13 Dec citing COVID-19-related delays. NGO Amnesty International 13 July called for release of journalist Samira Sabou, arrested in June on defamation charges, saying case was “politically motivated”; Sabou released 29 July. Govt 17 July announced plans to reopen air borders 1 Aug following their closure in March amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Jihadist attacks persisted in south west near border with Mali and Burkina Faso, while govt faced new accusations of extrajudicial killings. In south west, suspected jihadists 4 June attacked Intikane refugee camp near border with Mali in Tahoua region, killing three local leaders and forcing thousands to flee; 24 June abducted ten humanitarian workers in village of Bossey Bangou near border with Burkina Faso in Tillabery region. Meanwhile, security forces continued to be accused of extrajudicial killings: NGO Amnesty International, corroborating earlier reports, 10 June said security forces killed 102 civilians in Inates area, Tillabery region 27 March-2 April; NGO Human Right Watch 12 June accused govt forces of killing two unarmed men in 11 May operation in Diffa region in south east. Misappropriation of defence funds involving senior state officials, first revealed in Feb, continued to spark controversy. After govt audit of 2017-2019 military contracts late May concluded state had lost $120mn through inflated costs of equipment or materiel that was charged but never delivered, four opposition parties 16 June accused govt of considering out-of-court settlement with suppliers involved in embezzlement scheme. Humanitarian agencies early June reported authorities projected that number of children suffering from severe malnutrition would rise by as much as 30% in 2020 due to impact of COVID-19 on food security and access to health services.
Govt and regional forces confronted jihadist militants in south east near border with Nigeria, while jihadists continued to launch attacks in west near Mali and Burkina Faso. In Diffa region in south east, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) 3 May attacked border post near Diffa city, killing at least two soldiers. Military in joint operation with Nigeria same day intercepted column of vehicles of suspected jihadists near Dumba’a village, killing fifty. Govt 13 May said joint regional force MNJTF 11 May killed 25 Boko Haram (BH) insurgents in operation south of Diffa city and 50 others in Lake Chad area of northern Nigeria. Suspected BH militants 18-19 May attacked Blabrine military base, killing at least twelve soldiers; seven militants also killed. Jihadist attacks continued in west. In Tillabery region, suspected jihadists 9 May killed at least twenty civilians in attacks on three villages in Anzourou area. In Tahoua region, suspected jihadists 31 May attacked Intikane refugee camp killing three civilians. Ambassador to UN reportedly obtained cancellation of UN Security Council meeting scheduled 14 May to present UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) report that found evidence of 34 extrajudicial killings by Nigerien forces in Mali 1 Jan-31 March. NGO Amnesty International 8 May accused authorities of using COVID-19 state of emergency to stifle dissent, citing at least ten arbitrary arrests since March; govt 13 May authorised places of worship to reopen and lifted nightly curfew on capital Niamey.
Security forces stepped up counter-insurgency operations in south east and west amid continued jihadist violence; and govt measures to contain COVID-19 outbreak sparked social unrest in urban areas. In Diffa region in south east near Nigeria, security forces in cooperation with regional force MNJTF 2 April launched offensive to dislodge Boko Haram (BH) militants from islands of Lake Chad; number of casualties unknown. In Tillabéry region in west near Mali and Burkina Faso, security forces 2 April reportedly killed 63 Islamist militants in clashes near Tamalaoulaou village; four soldiers also killed. Suspected jihadists 5 April attacked gendarmerie in Banibangou, leaving two gendarmes and two jihadists dead. Govt 23 April denied reports by media and local officials alleging security forces had executed some 100 civilians in Ayorou district, also Tillabéry, 27 March-2 April; same day announced investigation. Amid COVID-19 pandemic, electoral commission 2 April suspended voter registration in Niamey region, sparking concerns pandemic could affect timeframe of presidential and legislative elections planned for Dec. Parliament 11 April extended state of public health emergency by three months until July. Police 17-19 April fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters demonstrating in capital Niamey and second largest city Maradi against COVID-19 curfew and ban on religious gatherings; at least 100 arrested. Govt 22 April relaxed curfew in Niamey. Public prosecutor 7 April said he would open investigation after defence ministry audit late-Feb revealed large-scale embezzlement of public funds involving figures close to President Issoufou. UN mission (MINUSMA) 30 April said Nigerien security forces carried out over 30 extrajudicial killings in Mali 1 Jan-31 March.
Jihadist attacks continued in west and south east, while crackdown on civil society protest left three dead in capital Niamey. In Tillabery region (west) near Mali and Burkina Faso, suspected Islamic State (ISIS) militants 9 March killed son of former President Ali Saïbou near Ouallam city; 12 March killed nine national guards near Ayorou city; suspected ISIS or jihadist coalition Group to Support Islam and Muslims militants same day attacked forest guard station near Tamou town, sixteen forest guards reportedly missing. In Diffa region (south east) near Nigeria, Boko Haram (BH) 7 March attacked Chetima military camp, killing at least eight soldiers; suspected BH militants also targeted civilians in Gueskérou commune, including ten abducted 5 March (released next day), four more residents abducted 7 March (including village chief), and fourteen reportedly killed in five villages night of 12-13 March; army 15 March repelled BH attack on Toumour military post (also Diffa region), killing 50 militants. After defence ministry audit late-Feb revealed large-scale embezzlement of public funds involving figures close to President Issoufou, judiciary 9 March went on strike to demand release of full audit report and criminal prosecutions against those involved, and civil society 15 March demonstrated in Niamey against govt’s handling of case despite bans on gatherings due to COVID-19; security forces cracked down on protesters, leaving three dead and arresting a dozen. Security forces 5 March arrested blogger Mamane Kaka Touda over accusations of “disturbing public order” after he reported suspected COVID-19 case in Niamey hospital; Touda was released 26 March after court gave him three-month suspended sentence. In response to COVID-19, govt 19 March closed land borders and banned commercial international flights for two-week renewable period; Issoufou late March pardoned 1,540 prisoners “to reduce prison numbers”, including opposition figure Hama Amadou.
Jihadists scaled down attacks against security forces in west and continued to target civilians in south east. In Tillabéry region in west near Mali and Burkina Faso, unidentified gunmen 1 Feb raided hotel in Ayorou town, killing civilian; suspected members of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara 6 Feb killed five civilians in Molia village and 10 Feb attacked Ayorou police station, killing two policemen. Govt 22 Feb said military and French Barkhane troops killed 120 suspected jihadists in joint operation in west 1-20 Feb. In Diffa region in south east near Nigeria, suspected Boko Haram (BH) militants 3 Feb killed three civilians in Kangouri and Makintari villages; BH faction Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) 7 Feb killed six civilians they accused of providing supplies to Abubakar Shekau-led rival BH faction (Jama’tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, JAS) in Gogone village; suspected jihadists 11-12 Feb abducted five civilians south of Ngagam village; inhabitants of Lamana village 12-13 Feb reportedly killed unspecified number of suspected jihadists; also in Diffa region, twenty refugees 18 Feb died in stampede during aid distribution. African Union 27 Feb announced temporary deployment of 3,000-strong force to combat jihadist groups in Sahel.
Jihadists continued to step up attacks against security forces in west and target civilians in south east, leaving scores dead, while President Issoufou doubled down on commitment to maintain French military presence. Suspected Islamic State (ISIS) militants 9 Jan attacked military base in Chinégodar, Tillabery region in west near Malian border, killing at least 89 soldiers – deadliest single attack against security forces in country’s history, four weeks after suspected ISIS’s Sahel affiliate killed 71 soldiers in same region. Govt 13 Jan removed armed forces chief and army chief. After govt 1 Jan banned use of motorbikes in Tillabery region, hundreds protested 18 Jan in Tillabery against restrictions on free movement and worsening security situation. In Diffa region in south east, suspected Boko Haram militants 9 Jan reportedly kidnapped eighteen civilians in Toumour. After President Issoufou and other G5 Sahel heads of state met with French President Macron in Pau, France 13 Jan and agreed to step up military cooperation with France to counter jihadist threat in Sahel, security forces 17 Jan fired tear gas at protesters in capital Niamey demanding departure of French forces, and Issoufou 20 Jan reiterated commitment to French military presence. Security forces 4 Jan dispersed weeks-long sit-in protest of asylum seekers demanding better living conditions and shorter processing times in front of UN Refugee Agency offices in Agadez; police arrested 335 protesters and forced others back to camp, which some set alight.
Jihadists continued to launch attacks in west – including deadliest single attack against security forces in country’s history – and south east. In west near Malian border, suspected members of Islamic State’s Sahel affiliate 9 Dec launched suicide attack against army base in Agando, Tahoua region, killing three soldiers. Two days later, militants from same group attacked military base in Inates, Tillabery region, killing 71 soldiers, prompting President Issoufou to hold emergency meeting of National Security Council 12 Dec and emergency G5 Sahel heads of state meeting 15 Dec in capital Niamey. Suspected jihadist militants 25 Dec ambushed army convoy in Sanam, Tillabery region, killing fourteen soldiers. Jihadist violence also continued in Diffa region in south east near Nigeria. Suspected Boko Haram (BH) militants 1 Dec reportedly killed three in Riari village near Bosso. Suspected jihadists 7 Dec reportedly abducted ten women and girls in Gueskerou commune. Also in Diffa region, 125 former BH militants completed deradicalisation program at facility in Goundamaria 7 Dec; govt said they would start going back to their villages 9 Dec.
In run-up to 2020 presidential and legislative elections, main opposition leader returned from exile, and suspected jihadists continued attacks in west. Former national assembly president and runner-up in 2016 presidential election Hama Amadou returned 14 Nov after three years in exile in France and Benin. Amadou 18 Nov handed himself in to authorities and was imprisoned, due to serve eight months on charges of baby trafficking. Opposition continued to boycott electoral commission and electoral code adopted in June that disqualifies any potential candidate who has been sentenced to at least one year in prison, making Amadou ineligible. In Tillabery region in west, suspected jihadists 1 Nov reportedly attacked Firgoun, near Ayorou town, killing one; suspected members of jihadist group Islamic State in the Greater Sahara 11 Nov attacked Boni Kado village, reportedly killing village chief. Suspected Islamist militants 29 Nov attacked Djaouga village near Torodi in west near border with Burkina Faso, two civilians wounded; security forces killed militant.
Jihadist groups continued to attack civilians in south east near Nigeria and security forces in west near Mali. In south east, suspected members of Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province carried out several attacks in Diffa region: militants killed one civilian in Biri Boula 1 Oct; one civilian in Kaoure and two others in Kindjandi 6 Oct; killed fisherman near Koulgouliram 8 Oct. Suspected Boko Haram combatants 30 Oct attacked Blabrine military base in Diffa region, killing at least ten. In Tillabéri region’s Filingué department bordering Mali in west, suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 8 Oct ambushed army patrol around Ekrafane, one soldier wounded and four militants reportedly killed; suspected jihadists 12 Oct ambushed gendarmerie patrol at Abarey market, five gendarmes killed. In Tillabéri region’s Say department near border with Burkina Faso, suspected jihadist militants 7 Oct killed gendarme in Bankata. In Dosso region in south west, suspected ISGS militants 6 Oct attacked military in Dogondoutchi department, killing two soldiers. Parliament 11 Oct extended state of emergency in Diffa region and parts of Tillabéri and Tahoua regions. Cabinet 4 Oct adopted new border control policy for 2019-2035 amid rising concerns over insecurity and irregular migration on southern border with Nigeria. EU mission (EUCAP) and International Organization for Migration 10 Oct launched construction of new centre in Birni N’Konni, Tahoua region near border with Nigeria to host permanent 250-strong border force. President Issoufou early Oct reiterated that he will not seek third term.
Jihadist groups continued attacks on civilians in south east near Nigeria, as President Issoufou accused Malian armed group leaders of collusion with jihadists in west. In south east, villagers in Diffa region reported deadly incursions by Boko Haram, in particular faction known as Islamic State West Africa Province, almost every day. In west, suspected jihadists 10 Sept stole two vehicles from International Committee of the Red Cross near Tongo Tongo, Tillabéry region. During visit to Malian capital Bamako 7 Sept, President Issoufou said unresolved status of Kidal region in northern Mali, still controlled by ex-rebel group Coalition of Azawad Movements, signatory of 2015 peace accord, was “threat to Niger’s domestic security” and accused some armed group leaders of collusion with jihadists. Issoufou raised issue again during 14 Sept extraordinary summit of regional bloc Economic Community of West African States in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou. Niger’s ambassador to Mali 13 Sept said he would not attend meeting of peace accord committee scheduled to take place in Kidal 17 Sept; consequently meeting postponed (see Mali). About 2,000 gathered to protest against electoral code and electoral commission in capital Niamey 28 Sept, ahead of 2020 elections.