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Suspected jihadist groups stepped up attacks in south west near borders with Burkina Faso and Mali and suspected Boko Haram continued attacks in south east near border with Nigeria. Govt 3 Nov said army had destroyed several camps of alleged jihadists in south west in previous week. Unidentified assailants 17 Nov attacked gendarmerie post near Makalondi, 10km from Burkina Faso border in Tillabery region, killing two gendarmes before retreating across border. Armed assailants 30 Nov attacked police post in Tera town in south west, killing customs officer. Govt same day declared state of emergency in departments of Say, Torodi and Tera in Tillabery region in south west. In south east, suspected Boko Haram militants 22 Nov attacked French drilling company Foraco’s well site in Toumour, Diffa region, eight people killed; local authorities 24 Nov said suspected Boko Haram gunmen had kidnapped fifteen girls overnight in village near Toumour, Diffa region. U.S. media early Nov reported that U.S. military sent letters of reprimand to six personnel, including Air Force two-star general, for their roles in Oct 2017 operation near Tongo Tongo in which four American and four Nigerien soldiers were killed.
Security forces responded to rising banditry in Niger-Nigeria border area. Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum 10 Oct announced creation of Niger-Nigeria joint battalion at Madarounfa, Maradi region in south to counter insecurity in border area; Bazoum 16 Oct said that in three-week operation joint forces had killed 30 “bandits”, arrested a dozen and dismantled twelve bases. Govt 17 Oct renewed for three months state of emergency in Diffa region in south east and Tahoua and Tillabery regions in west bordering Mali. General Abu Tarka, head of govt’s High Authority for Consolidating Peace, 9 Oct said militants linked to jihadist groups were returning from Mali and asking to reintegrate into local communities. About 4,000 people demonstrated 6 Oct in capital Niamey against 2019 budget adopted by ministerial council in Sept. Authorities 5 Oct released three civil society leaders arrested in April during unauthorised gathering against fiscal measures. Govt and opposition early Oct agreed to revise electoral law.
Opposition and civil society continued to criticise President Issoufou for his alleged growing authoritarianism. Independent judges’ union Syndicat Autonome des Magistrats du Niger 6 Sept condemned what they saw as govt’s efforts to erode power of judiciary. Thousands demonstrated in capital Niamey 9 Sept against 2018 and 2019 finance laws. Govt mid-Sept extended for three months state of emergency in Diffa region in south east and in Tillabery and Tahoua regions in west. Unidentified individuals kidnapped two women in Gueskerou, Diffa region 3 Sept; women reportedly released in exchange for ransom 13 Sept. Unidentified assailants kidnapped Italian priest 17 Sept near Torodi, Tillabery region, close to border with Burkina Faso. New York Times 9 Sept revealed existence of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) base at Dirkou, Agadez region in north reportedly run by U.S. Central Intelligence Agency; U.S. Department of Defense runs two UAV bases, in Niamey and Agadez.
Alleged Boko Haram militants 8-9 Aug attacked Toumour village, Diffa region in south east, at least one civilian killed. Army 1 Aug clashed with unidentified assailants near Inates in west along border with Mali, at least one soldier killed. Amid govt crackdown on civil liberties and dissent, authorities closed several radio, television, and press outlets since start of July for alleged “non-payment of taxes”. Issoufou 5 Aug launched Niger Compact, $437mn grant from U.S. to support economic growth and investment; five U.S. senators warned authorities not to take anti-terrorist cooperation as green light to avoid governance responsibilities.
Suspected Boko Haram (BH) militants continued attacks in Diffa region in south east. Suspected BH 1 July attacked military position in Bla Brin village in Lake Chad area, killing six soldiers. BH militants 19-20 July attacked military post in Baroua village near border with Nigeria, killing soldier, ten BH also killed. High Court in capital Niamey 24 July handed three-month suspended prison sentences to several prominent civil rights activists detained since March on charges of unauthorised public gathering; activists released same day.
In far north, near borders with Chad and Libya, reported heavily armed Chadian bandits in seventeen vehicles, suspected of preying on artisanal gold mining operations, clashed with security forces 8-10 June, two soldiers reportedly killed; army with support of French and U.S. forces reportedly pursued bandits as they fled and reportedly crossed into Libya. Three Boko Haram suicide bombers (two female and one male) 4 June launched attacks on Quranic school in Diffa town in south east, killing at least nine. Govt 18 June renewed state of emergency in Diffa region in south east and Tillabery and Tahoua regions in west for three months. During President Issoufou’s visit to France 4 June, French media and NGOs denounced ongoing detention of 26 civil society leaders, “deterioration in civil liberties” and “authoritarian drift”; Issoufou called opposition activists “putschists”, vowed not to change constitution to seek third term in 2021.
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.