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Intercommunal violence escalated in Mali-Niger border area. Following reported killing of dozens of ethnic Dossaak and Fulani civilians in area late April, suspected members of Malian armed group Self-Defence Group of Imrad Tuareg and Allies (GATIA) – involved in counter-insurgency operations alongside national forces and supported by French forces – 18 May attacked Aghay village, Tillabery region, killing at least seventeen Fulani civilians. Hearings of over twenty civil society leaders arrested late March started 14 May: defence lawyers 11 May filed complaint citing arbitrary detention and irregular procedural standstill.
Security forces 15 April clashed with protesters demonstrating against fiscal measures in 2018 budget in capital Niamey and arrested three civil society leaders. Students demanding reinstatement of five classmates expelled mid-March clashed with security forces 18 April at University of Niamey, several students injured. In west, unidentified gunmen 11 April kidnapped German humanitarian worker 30km from Ayorou in Tillaberi region near Mali border. President Issoufou 1 April said govt will not engage in talks with Boko Haram for release of 39 women abducted in Diffa region in July 2017. FM Ibrahim Yacouba asked to resign 11 April, reportedly for opposition to electoral reforms he deemed non-transparent.
Malian ethnic militias and French forces stepped up joint operations against suspected jihadists in Mali-Niger border region: Self-Defence Group of Imrad Tuareg and Allies (GATIA) and Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA) and French Barkhane forces crossed border into western Niger several times in pursuit of suspected jihadists, handed over prisoners to Nigerien security forces (FDS) reportedly from 6 March. GATIA fighters 11 March accidentally clashed with FDS near Mangaize in Tillaberi region, one FDS reportedly killed. Armed individuals 12 March attacked gendarmerie position in Goubé village, Tillaberi region, 40km from capital Niamey, killing three gendarmes. Islamic State in the Greater Sahara 4 March claimed responsibility for 4 Oct 2017 ambush in Tongo Tongo village near border with Mali that killed four U.S. Special Forces and five FDS. U.S. military 14 March said its Special Forces had killed eleven suspected Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Diffa region 6 Dec 2017. Thousands 11 March marched in Niamey against 2018 tax bill, civil society representatives vowed to demonstrate until repeal of “unjust law”. Further protest against bill 25 March led to clashes with security forces and arrest of civil society representatives.
In south east, armed men abducted chief of Assaga village, less than 10km from Diffa. At summit of G5 Sahel (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania) in Niamey 6 Feb, President Issoufou took over presidency from Malian President Keita for one year and Nigerien Maman Sidikou took over as secretary general. At summit in Brussels 23 Feb, donors increased pledges for G5 Sahel joint force to total of €414mn, with EU increasing its contribution from €50mn to €100mn. Media outlets including radio stations, newspapers and TV channels suspended broadcasting 5 Feb to denounce govt pressure on journalists, including tighter financial scrutiny.
Suspected Boko Haram (BH) militants increased attacks in south east and insecurity persisted in west. In south east, suspected BH militants attacked army positions in Toumour, east of Diffa 17 Jan, reportedly killing at least seven soldiers, at least one civilian also killed. BH militants attacked National Guard outpost near Chetimari, about 20km from Diffa, at least two soldiers and several militants reportedly killed. Govt early Jan extended state of emergency for another three months and extended by unspecified period 31 Dec deadline for BH militants to surrender; 26 BH militants reportedly surrendered in Diffa 16 Jan. In west, armed men seen destroying communication posts in several places in Tillabery region mid-Jan; security forces claimed to have prevented assailants destroying communication posts in Banibangou area 17 Jan, killing up to fifteen. Civil society-led protests against 2018 finance law continued 14 Jan in Niamey, Zinder and Dosso.
Govt and U.S. signed agreement 2 Dec authorising U.S. to conduct drone strikes against armed groups in Niger. At summit on joint force of G5 Sahel countries (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania) in Paris 13 Dec, Saudi Arabia pledged $100mn and United Arab Emirates $30mn toward force. Police prevented civil society-led protests against 2018 finance law 22 Dec, but several thousand protested in capital Niamey 31 Dec. Following reports of sub-Saharan migrants being sold as slaves in Libya, first 500 Nigerien migrants repatriated from Libya to Niger 8 Dec; govt said it would repatriate all Nigerien migrants in Libya.
Joint force of Sahel G5 countries (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania) conducted first operation in Burkina-Mali-Niger border area 27 Oct-11 Nov involving troops from three host countries. Govt 6 Nov said it would allow U.S. to use drones to conduct strikes on suspected militants. After protests against planned 2018 budget led to clashes between protestors and police 29 Oct, three leaders of civil society collective that organised protests faced sentences of five years in prison mid-Nov, charges dropped 24 Nov.
Gunmen allegedly from Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) led by Abu Walid Al Sahroaui ambushed mixed Niger-U.S. military patrol near Tongo Tongo village, in Tillabery region in west near Mali border 4 Oct, killing five Nigerien and four U.S. soldiers. Security forces arrested chief of Tongo Tongo for alleged involvement in ambush. Assailants attacked gendarmerie post at Ayorou, Tillabery region 21 Oct killing at least thirteen gendarmes. Chad completed withdrawal of its troops from Diffa region in south east which began late Sept, officially to reinforce presence in northern Chad; govt declared south east no-go zone for Westerners, fearing abductions. Following UN Security Council meeting on planned G5 Sahel joint force to counter Islamist militancy and trafficking 30 Oct, U.S. Sec State Tillerson pledged up to $60mn in support. French President Macron 9 Oct said France would in next two years offer resettlement to 10,000 refugees, of which 3,000 would be from Chad and Niger.
Alleged Boko Haram (BH) militants 6 Sept tried to abduct four villagers in Koutou, Diffa region in south east; three reportedly escaped, one killed. Alleged BH 7 Sept abducted child near Nguigmi, Diffa region. Govt 16 Sept extended by three months state of emergency in Diffa region and in Tillaberi and Tahoua regions on Mali border in west.
Army 18 Aug allegedly killed 39 Boko Haram (BH) militants near Barwa, Diffa region in south east. International Office for Migration 9 Aug said 1,000 West African migrants abandoned by smugglers in north rescued since April.
Jihadist activity continued in west along Mali border. Jihadist coalition Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) claimed 5 July ambush on military convoy that killed five soldiers in Midal valley, Tahoua region, supposedly under influence of other jihadist group Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS). Mali-based Tuareg and Doosaak groups reportedly killed seven Fulani herders at Anderaboukhane on Mali-Niger border 11 July. Boko Haram (BH) attacks rose again in Diffa region in south east: alleged BH militants 2 July killed nine civilians and abducted dozens in Ngalewa village, looting food and cattle. Soldiers 6 July killed fourteen unarmed civilians in restricted access area around Abadam village, mistaking them for BH militants. At summit of G5 Sahel (Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania) in Bamako 1-2 July, members each pledged €10mn to finance 5,000-strong joint military force to counter jihadism in region (see Mali). Authorities increasingly harassed journalists and civil society: journalist Ali Soumana imprisoned and charged 3 July with stealing official documents and “violating the secrecy of the investigation” into case involving govt and Lebanese company.
Military 3 June arrested six alleged members of Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) accused of involvement in 31 May attack at Abala in Tillabery region in west that killed six security personnel. Govt 16 June extended state of emergency for three months in Tillabery and Tahoua regions in west. Alleged Boko Haram fighters 6 June attacked Garin Dogo village in Diffa region in south east, no casualties reported. Two female suicide bombers 28 June attacked refugee camp in Kabelewa village near Diffa town, two bombers and two others killed. African Union 3 June pledged support to efforts of Sahel G5 (Niger, Mali, Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso) against jihadism and EU 5 June promised €50mn to support G5 joint military force; UN Security Council 21 June adopted resolution endorsing G5 force but did not authorise use of force.