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Civilians suffered violence at the hands of jihadist and govt forces in southern regions, and French Operation Barkhane formally ended.
Jihadists targeted civilians in Diffa region in south east. Alleged members of Boko Haram JAS faction 2 Nov attacked camp for internally displaced persons in N’Gala Peulh locality (N’Guigmi department), killing five civilians. Unidentified Boko Haram faction 4 Nov kidnapped three people between Djilmari and Waragou localities (Diffa department); national guard later freed hostages, killing one jihadist. Suspected JAS combatants 7 Nov kidnapped eight people in Maldjori town, Diffa department; national guard operation in Bague locality, Bosso department next day reportedly freed hostages, leaving five militants dead.
Counter-insurgency operations continued in Tillabery region in south west. Alleged Islamic State Sahel Province 6 Nov attacked national guard position in Zibane locality (Tillabery department), leaving no casualties; in response, military in cooperation with French forces launched ground and air operation in area, killing 15 militants. As opposition continued to accuse govt forces of killing several civilians in airstrike on Tamou mining site in Oct, coordinator of M62 coalition of 15 civil society organisations, Abdoulaye Seydou, 17 Nov said police had summoned him three times for his comments on incident.
French Operation Barkhane came to a formal end. French President Macron 9 Nov announced formal end of Operation Barkhane amid reconfiguration of France’s military strategy in Sahel region; around 1,000 French troops will however remain in Niger as part of bilateral military cooperation. European Union official 11 Nov announced launch of military cooperation mission in early 2023 to support Nigerien forces in their fight against jihadists.
Jihadist violence persisted in south west and south east, while inflation and French troop presence remained sources of public discontent.
Islamic State Sahel Province attacks continued in Tillabery region in south west. Suspected IS Sahel militants 8 Oct ambushed G5 Sahel force patrol in Téra department, injuring five soldiers before being repulsed; 22 Oct attacked transport trucks on Tizegorou-Banibangou axis (Banibangou department), killing 12 civilians. Suspected jihadists – likely IS Sahel or al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) – 22 and 24 Oct killed two police officers in Tamou locality (Say department); after defence ministry said seven jihadists killed 24 Oct in subsequent security operations in Tamou gold mine, civil society coalition M62 29 Oct alleged much higher death toll and civilian victims; local authorities 27 Oct shut down Tamou mining site until further notice.
Boko Haram offshoots maintained their presence in Diffa region in south east. Govt forces 1-2 Oct reported dismantling Boko Haram (likely Islamic State in West Africa Province, ISWAP) supply system in Toumour village (Diffa department). Suspected ISWAP-planted explosive device 16 Oct killed woman and girl and injured two children in Bosso commune (Bosso department).
In other important developments. Niamey authorities 7 Oct banned M62 protest scheduled for 9 Oct, citing “security reasons”; M62 had called for demonstration against high costs of living and relocation of French Barkhane force to Niger. Meanwhile, civil protection services 4 Oct said floods have killed at least 192 people and affected 263,000 others since June, with Maradi, Zinder and Dosso most affected regions.
President Bazoum worked to strengthen regional and domestic support as anti-French protests erupted notably in capital Niamey; insecurity persisted in several regions.
Bazoum’s security strategy continued to arouse anti-French sentiment. Civil society coalition M62 18 Sept held demonstrations in Niamey and south-western Dosso city against French Barkhane force’s relocation to Niger; hundreds turned out, chanting pro-Russia slogans, with no violent incidents reported. As part of Bazoum’s attempt to consolidate domestic support amid backlash over increased French presence, National Council for Political Dialogue – permanent framework bringing together govt, opposition and other political parties – 9 Sept met in Niamey for first time in almost two years; participants discussed security situation among other topics. Bazoum also discussed security cooperation with Burkinabè President Lt. Col. Damiba 11 Sept and adviser to Chad’s president next day in Niamey. News outlet Africa Intelligence 5 Sept reported European Union would send training mission to Niger at Bazoum’s request.
Sporadic jihadist violence persisted in south west and south east. In Tillabery region (south west), security forces week of 14 Sept killed eight jihadists in Tera department, and arrested four individuals suspected of cooperating with jihadists in Abala department. In Diffa region (south east), suspected Boko Haram faction JAS 3 Sept killed three civilians in Bosso village (Bosso department), 6 Sept killed seven on Liberia island (N’Guigmi department); local official said jihadist elements 20 Sept killed 11 farmers near Toumour town (Diffa department). Multinational Joint Task Force in Sept conducted several operations in Diffa, N’Guigmi and Bosso departments, reportedly killing several suspected jihadists and detaining scores.
French Operation Barkhane completed relocation to Niger amid domestic opposition and persistent jihadist violence in southern regions. Insecurity continued to plague south. In Tillabery region in south west, al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 1 Aug killed three civilians in Garbougna village (Gothèye department). Govt forces week of 4 Aug killed eight JNIM fighters near Samira mine (also Gothèye). Explosive device allegedly planted by JNIM militants 11 Aug killed two civilians near Bougoum town (Niamey capital region). In nearby Tahoua region, security forces week of 4 Aug killed four suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) fighters near Tabatol locality (Tillia department). In Diffa region in south east, Multinational Joint Task Force troops week of 10 Aug arrested three suspected Boko Haram splinter Jama’tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (JAS) members in Toumour locality (Diffa department); JAS militants 12 Aug attacked civilian vehicles near Garin N’Gawaye town (N’Guigmi department), killing two and abducting 22. French Operation Barkhane 15 Aug completed relocation from Mali to Niger amid widespread domestic criticism. New anti-French coalition of 15 civil society organisations, M62, created 3 Aug; after Niamey authorities banned M62 protest scheduled for 17 Aug against rising fuel prices and French relocation, coalition vowed to organise “peaceful march for dignity” on 18 Sept. Former President Mahamane Ousmane’s opposition party 11 Aug denounced Barkhane redeployment to Niger, as well as country’s security and economic situation. In apparent response to rising pressure, President Bazoum 2 Aug called for greater unity against jihadists, 5 Aug met with opposition leader Tahirou Saidou in rare political move. Govt worked to bolster security apparatus: after cabinet late July extended state of emergency in parts of Tillabery, Tahoua and Diffa regions, defence minister 1 Aug announced plans to increase size of military from 33,000 to 100,000 troops by 2030.
Violence ran high in Diffa region in south east; govt sought to strengthen regional security cooperation, and reported growing food insecurity. In Diffa region in south east, Boko Haram splinter group – Jama’tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (JAS) or Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) – 3 July attacked National Guard post in Gueskérou commune (Diffa department), killing two; 11 militants also killed and eight others captured. Around 50 presumed JAS combatants 4-5 July attacked Blabrine military position in N’Guigmi department, killing six soldiers and wounding 14 more, and losing 17 militants; 18 July abducted 16 people including 11 Chadian Quranic students and five women in N’Guigmi town. In Tillabery region in south west, violence continued along Burkina Faso border, near capital Niamey, where al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) operates. Notably, in Torodi department, govt forces around 7 July killed five suspected JNIM members near Torodi town, while unidentified gunmen around 13 July ambushed joint Nigerien-Burkinabe patrol in same area; patrol repulsed attack, reportedly killing 22 assailants. Amid relative lull in violence in Mali-Niger border area of Tillabery, partly due to dialogue between govt and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), suspected ISGS militants 17-18 July reportedly clashed with militiamen near Adabdab village in Banibangou department; at least eight militiamen and three militants killed. Niger and Benin 11 July signed military cooperation agreement with view to enhancing information-sharing and air-intelligence cooperation amid rising security concerns along shared border. PM Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou 7 July said 4.4mn Nigeriens will need food assistance during lean season in June-Sept, as inflation and rising food prices have further exacerbated existing food shortages.
Jihadist violence continued in Tillabery and Diffa regions, and President Bazoum reiterated willingness to talk with jihadists. Insecurity persisted in Tillabery region. In Gotheye department, suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants 14 June killed at least eight soldiers and wounded 33 in attack on Waraou town; in response, French Barkhane forces same day carried out airstrike against retreating assailants near Burkina Faso border, killing around 40. In Banibangou department, suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara militants 7 June attacked Diné-Ara and Inékar towns, causing unknown casualties, and 11 June killed two local vigilantes in Tizegorou locality. In rare attack within Niamey capital district, suspected JNIM militants 7 June killed one soldier and wounded another in Bougoum town. Joint anti-insurgency operation made headway in Diffa region, but jihadist attacks continued. Multinational Joint Task Force (which comprises militaries of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria) 8 June announced operation Lake Sanity 28 March-4 June killed over 800 Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) militants in Lake Chad basin. ISWAP militants 7 June killed one soldier in attack on army position in Djalori town (Diffa department); 14 June attacked customs post in Mainé-Soroa department, killing one. Meanwhile, President Bazoum continued efforts to engage local jihadist leaders in talks. Bazoum 3 June visited Makalondi commune (Torodi department, Tillabery region), called on jihadists to demobilise, promising reinsertion into society; 9 June visited Téra town (Téra department, Tillabery region), called for greater cooperation with Mali and Burkina Faso to stabilise shared borders. Amid continued popular opposition to French presence, Bazoum in 8 June interview with West African media outlets said he was “not a valet of France”. Nigerien, Nigerian and Algerian energy ministers around 20 June met in Nigeria’s capital Abuja in effort to revive trans-Saharan pipeline project to transport gas to Europe.
Security forces kept up pressure on jihadist militants in south east and south west; President Bazoum reiterated commitment to security partnership with France despite vocal opposition. Nigerien military and regional allies continued security operations in Diffa region (south east). Notably, Nigerien elements of Multinational Joint Task Force 7 May killed ten members of Boko Haram in airstrike in N’Guigmi department. Govt 25 May said army previous night killed around 40 Boko Haram elements in fighting on Lake Chad islands in and around Diffa department. Meanwhile, jihadist violence persisted in Tillabery region (south west). Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants 4 May publicly executed civilian for unknown reason in Kokoloukou village (Torodi department); suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants killed civilian in Firaw Koira village (Tera department); IED allegedly planted by ISGS 12 May killed two civilians in Sakoira commune (Tillabery department); and JNIM militants next day killed five people, including village chief, in Bolsi town (Torodi department). Also in Tillabery, army 24 May reported killing 65 jihadists in recent days in Torodi and Gotheye areas. Amid increasingly vocal opposition to redeployment of French Barkhane forces in Niger, President Bazoum 17 May met with French Ambassador to Niger Alexandre Garcia in capital Niamey, reaffirmed ties with France. In interview with French media outlet La Croix, Bazoum next day called for deeper and more effective Western involvement to combat jihadist groups in Sahel region. UN Sec Gen António Guterres 2-3 May visited Niger, met with Bazoum and called on international community to invest more in training and equipment for Nigerien army. After Court of Auditors in April pointed to dysfunctions and irregularities in conduct of govt operations, Nigerien Network for Budgetary Transparency and Analysis and other NGOs 11 May filed legal complaint over alleged loss of FCFA63bn (€95,7mn) in state funds due to embezzlement in recent years.
Rival jihadist factions engaged in major clashes in Diffa region, parliament authorised relocation of foreign troops from Mali to Niger, and authorities arrested sitting minister and other govt officials as part of anti-corruption campaign. In Diffa region (south east), infighting between two subgroups of Boko Haram faction known as JAS 4 April left over 60 dead around Bosso commune, on islands shared between countries of Lake Chad basin; JAS 9-10 April clashed with rival group Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) in Bosso commune, with at least 14 dead. ISWAP reportedly claimed executing 11 Christians after capturing them in Diffa region 22-26 April. Amid lower jihadist activity in Tillabery region (south west), suspected jihadists 12 April killed seven police officers and wounded over a dozen in attack on police station near Burkina Faso border in Bankilaré department. As part of 2-25 April joint operation with Burkinabè forces along shared border, govt forces reportedly killed numerous suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants in Torodi department. In Agadez region (north), attacks by unidentified assailants 8 and 12 April left six soldiers dead. As part of ongoing military operations across country, 54 suspected jihadists reportedly killed 26 March-2 April in Dosso, Tahoua, Tillabery, and Diffa regions; and 37 militants killed 5 April in joint operation with neighbouring Benin and Burkina Faso in tri-border area. National Assembly 22 April voted to allow redeployment from Mali to Niger of French Barkhane and European Takuba troops. Authorities 8 April arrested former Interior Minister Ousmane Cissé on accusations of involvement in alleged coup attempts in 2021 and during President Bazoum’s visit to Turkey in March. Bazoum next day announced arrests of 30 senior govt officials as part of anti-corruption drive; authorities around 19 April also arrested Communication Minister Mahamadou Zada on embezzlement charges in first-ever arrest of minister in office.
Jihadist groups stepped up attacks in Tillabery and Diffa regions, leaving over 50 dead; relocation of French Barkhane and European Takuba forces from Mali to Niger remained divisive. In Tillabery region (south west), explosive devices likely planted by al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) around 3-4 March killed five soldiers in Torodi department. Suspected jihadists 16 March attacked civilian transport vehicles in Tera department, killing 21 people including at least two police officers; 24 March ambushed army convoy in Kolmane area, also Téra department, killing six soldiers. Jihadists also ramped up attacks in Diffa region (south east). Govt forces 2 March clashed with suspected Boko Haram Bakura faction militants in Gueskerou commune (Diffa department), number of casualties unknown. Bakura combatants 7 March attacked six villages in Diffa department, killing at least 20 people and abducting unknown number of women. President Bazoum defended decision to open dialogue with jihadists: after announcing late Feb he had sent emissaries to “nine terrorist leaders” and released several militants from prison in effort to “search for peace”, Bazoum 10 March told Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera that dialogue with JNIM militants could produce positive outcome, insisted military force is necessary part of any solution. Ruling coalition 5 March issued statement supporting Bazoum’s decision to accept redeployment of French Barkhane and European Takuba forces to Niger. In letter to French President Macron, opposition MP Omar Hamidou 7 March opposed relocation, said French and European forces had “lost all credibility” in Nov 2021 when three protesters were killed in clashes with Barkhane forces in Tillabery’s Tera department.
Niger set to take on enhanced role in regional security architecture amid departure of French and other forces from Mali; insecurity remained widespread in Tillabery and Diffa regions. French Defence Minister Florence Parly 2-3 Feb visited Niger to assure Niamey of Paris’s “unfailing support” in fight against jihadists amid reconfiguration of France’s security presence in Sahel. France and partners 17 Feb announced full withdrawal of French Barkhane and European Takuba forces from Mali within six months, also stated intent to build new regional security architecture focusing on Niger and West African coastal countries by June. President Bazoum same day confirmed Niger will welcome part of Takuba troops leaving Mali but did not mention Barkhane. Possible reinforcement of French military presence stoked domestic tensions. Authorities 10 Feb banned demonstration scheduled for next day by civil society coalition Tournons La Page against French presence and deployed law enforcement forces in capital Niamey to prevent gathering. Meanwhile, several deadly attacks targeted civilians, local self-defence groups and military forces in Tillabery region (south west). Notably, army vehicle 16 Feb struck explosive device near Téra department’s Samira gold-mining site, leaving five killed and two wounded; unidentified assailants 20 Feb attacked truck in Banibangou department killing at least 18 civilians. In Diffa region (south east), series of abductions by suspected Boko Haram (BH) Bakura faction or Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) continued. Notably, ISWAP or Bakura faction 8 Feb killed one person and abducted 16 including women and children in Bosso department. Banditry activity and several abductions recorded in Maradi region (south). Unidentified gunmen 1 Feb attacked civilians in Koakora village (Guidan Roumdji department) and abducted four women; next day clashed with local defence militia and abducted woman in Tchadi village (also Guidan Roumdji). Also in Maradi, Nigerian army airstrike targeting armed bandits 18 Feb reportedly killed seven children in Nachadé village (Madarounfa department) bordering Nigeria.
Violence persisted mainly in south west but also south east, and corruption scandal re-emerged weakening President Bazoum. In Tillabery region (south west), Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) launched several attacks on security forces: gendarmerie vehicle 7 Jan hit explosive device likely planted by JNIM militants on Torodi-Makalondi axis (Torodi department), leaving at least three gendarmes killed; JNIM 15 Jan stormed mixed position of National Guard, customs and forest guards in Torodi department, killing one national guard. Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) also staged several attacks in south west, notably ambushing National Guard convoy between Sanam village in Tillabery and Tebaram village in neighbouring Tahoua region 3 Jan; five national guards killed. Spate of kidnappings continued in Diffa region (south east). Suspected Boko Haram Bakura faction or Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) combatants 3 Jan abducted three women in Gorodi village (Diffa department); all three next day escaped as air force conducted strikes on militants’ hideout. Suspected Bakura faction 5 Jan also kidnapped seven women and girls in Klakamana village (N’Guigmi department). Also in Diffa region, security forces 29 Jan reportedly repelled ISWAP attack on Chetima Wangou military camp, killing ten militants. In first major drug interception in Niger, police 2 Jan seized 214kg of cocaine – worth around $9mn – in local official’s vehicle at Tourayyat checkpoint in Agadez region (north). After legal document late Dec revealed govt had refused to bring civil action against those accused of having embezzled over FCFA12bn ($20mn) of defence ministry’s funds, president’s office 6 Jan insisted settlement allowed state to recover full amount and reaffirmed authenticity of Bazoum’s commitment to combat corruption; statement comes after Moussa Tchangari, sec gen of NGO Alternative Espaces Citoyens, 29 Dec said govt feared inquiry would reveal senior administration officials or prominent politicians’ involvement.
Security situation remained fragile in south west and authorities sought to stifle growing protest movement against foreign military presence. In Tillabery region (south west), suspected jihadist militants 4 Dec stormed army position near Fantio locality in Tera department, killing at least 12 soldiers; defence forces next day said they had killed “dozens” of militants in fighting. Niger and Burkina Faso 25 Nov-9 Dec conducted joint offensive along shared border as part of second phase of Taanli joint operation launched last June, claimed to have killed around 100 jihadists notably in Torodi department. French air strike 20 Dec reportedly killed leading Islamic State in the Greater Sahara member Soumana Boura north of Tillabery city. Presumed jihadists overnight 22-23 Dec simultaneously attacked border post and bridge near Makalondi village (Torodi department), killing at least seven. Meanwhile, UN refugee agency 3 Dec said violence in Nigeria’s North West had forced 11,500 people to flee into Niger in Nov, with most taking shelter in rural commune of Bangui in Tahoua region (which neighbours Tillabery); influx of refugees could present local authorities with additional challenge. Tensions persisted after protest against French military presence late Nov turned deadly in Tillabery’s Tera department; defence and interior ministers 4 and 11 Dec respectively refused to appear before parliament to answer questions on incident. Authorities 5 and 12 Dec banned two demonstrations against western military presence organised by civil society coalition Tournons la page (TLP); 10 Dec reportedly detained 15 TLP members, most of whom were allegedly taking part in rally in capital Niamey on Human Rights Day. In address to seventh edition of Peace and Security Forum in Senegal’s capital Dakar, President Bazoum 6 Dec urged external partners to increase efforts to stop illicit arms flows originating from Libya, described them as “most important parameter” behind jihadist violence in Sahel, and argued Sahelian countries should be granted exceptional financial resources to resolve security crisis.
Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) conducted sophisticated attacks in south west, inflicting heavy casualties and demonstrating resilience despite death of group’s leader in August. In Tillabery region (south west), alleged ISGS combatants 2 Nov ambushed self-defence group in Banibangou department, killing at least 69; two days later stormed mixed army and gendarmerie position in Tillabery department, killing at least 14 soldiers. President Bazoum 6 Nov labelled insecurity prevailing in Tillabery as country’s “number one challenge”. In Tillabery’s Tera department, protesters opposed to French military presence 27 Nov blocked French convoy hours after it had crossed border from Burkina Faso while en route to Mali; clashes erupted, leaving at least two killed and 18 wounded. In neighbouring Tahoua region, presumed ISGS combatants 17 Nov stormed nomadic compound guarded by Tuareg self-defence group in Tillia department, killing at least 25 including 22 vigilantes. In Diffa region (south east), despite absence of major jihadist attacks since mid-Sept, Boko Haram factions throughout month continued to harass and kidnap civilians to thwart relocation of internally displaced persons; republic’s 63rd anniversary celebrations scheduled for 18 Dec in Diffa city could become flashpoint for violence. Two major accidents in Maradi region (south) underlined significant challenges facing Bazoum presidency. Collapse of artisanal goldmine in Madarounfa department 7 Nov killed at least 18, highlighting risks associated with proliferation of artisanal mines in country’s south and north east. Meanwhile, fire 8 Nov broke out in straw hut classroom in same department, killing at least 26 primary school children; incident renewed pressure on govt to build classrooms in solid materials, one of Bazoum’s campaign promises. Bazoum 29 Nov announced partial cabinet reshuffle, notably sacking of interior minister.
Jihadists continued attacks on civilians and state forces in south west, fuelling displacement and worsening food crisis. In Tillabery region (south west), suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 3 Oct killed six civilians in Tera department; 5 Oct killed two civilians including Gassa village chief in Tillabery department; and 11 Oct stormed mosque in Banibangou department, leaving ten dead. Jihadists 17 Oct also attacked police post in Tera department, killing three police officers. Amid sustained efforts by President Bazoum to bolster relocation plan in region, local NGO Cluster Protection Niger said recent violence caused displacement of over 800 people in Tera department 4 Oct and another 150 in Tillabery department 9 Oct. UN humanitarian agency (OCHA) 1 Oct warned of rising food insecurity in Tillabery region due to farmers’ inability to cultivate lands and surge of food prices amid violence; recorded around 600,000 food insecure in region. In neighbouring Tahoua region, suspected bandits 10 and 12 Oct robbed two businessmen, raising fear of insecurity spilling over from neighbouring Nigeria’s Sokoto state. Violence dropped in Diffa region (south east) in Oct; suspected jihadists 12 Oct however abducted four people. Several security incidents reported in Maradi region (south); notably, unidentified gunmen 4 and 6 Oct abducted six civilians and seized livestock in Madarounfa department. Amid tense relations with Bamako since Malian military took power, Bazoum 6 Oct met leaders of main Malian armed groups signatory to 2015 Algiers peace agreement; rapprochement risks further aggravating diplomatic feud. “Pandora papers” investigation released 8 Oct alleged former Nigerien presidents including Bazoum’s predecessor Issoufou illegally awarded mining licences to Russian businessmen presumably as part of money-laundering scheme; accusations could heighten tensions within ruling party, including Bazoum’s inner circle potentially using allegations to reduce Issoufou’s influence.
Govt’s plan to relocate displaced people to violence-ridden south east and south west under strain as jihadist attacks on civilians continued. In Diffa region (south east), jihadists continued to target civilians in alleged bid to sabotage govt’s relocation plan. Suspected militants from Boko Haram’s Bakura faction 4 Sept abducted teacher in Kindjandi village (Diffa department); 13 Sept attacked civilian transport vehicle on Blabrine-N’Guigmi axis, wounding one; 21-23 Sept reportedly abducted village chief and about 20 women and children in N’Guigmi department. Alleged Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) combatants 7 Sept ambushed two civilian vehicles on Ngagam-Ehl Mainari axis, wounding at least four. Local sources 1 Sept accused security forces of having executed 17 fishermen following deadly jihadist attack in Baroua town late Aug. In Tillabery region (south west), suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) combatants 9 Sept killed 11 in Niarbou Kouara village (Ouallam department); suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants 22 Sept attacked National Guard position near Tamou village (Say department) killing one guard. President Bazoum 10-11 Sept visited Tillabery region in bid to bolster relocation efforts. NGO Amnesty International 13 Sept warned about increasing number of children killed or recruited by armed groups – notably ISGS and JNIM – in Tillabery this year. France 16 Sept said French Barkhane forces mid-Aug killed ISGS leader Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui in tri-border area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Meanwhile, G5 Sahel force’s member states (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Chad) 31 Aug-1 Sept met in capital Niamey, agreed on necessity to develop more multilateral and bilateral operations in tri-border area. Authorities 9 Sept charged two local journalists with “defamation” and “disruption of public safety” under controversial 2019 cyber criminality law, after they published international NGO study on drug trafficking in Niger.
Jihadist violence against civilians and military continued in south. In Tillabery region (south west), suspected jihadists continued to target civilians in Banibangou area (Ouallam department) near Malian border: interior ministry 11 Aug said unidentified gunmen 9 Aug killed 15 civilians in Banibangou area, and suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) combatants 16 Aug stormed Darey-Dey village, killing 37 civilians. Meanwhile, suspected ISGS combatants launched their first attack in Maradi region (south), killing two National Guard troops on Dakoro-Tessaoua axis 17 Aug; incident could indicate group’s intention to expand eastward. NGO Human Rights Watch 11 Aug reported recent upsurge in atrocities by jihadist groups in western Niger, with 420 civilians killed in Tillabery and Tahoua regions since Jan 2021, called for “early warning networks” and “committees composed of civilians, security forces, and civil society groups to identify and respond to urgent protection needs”. In Diffa region (south east), hundreds of Boko Haram militants overnight 24-25 Aug attacked military post in Baroua town, killing 16 soldiers and wounding nine more; attack is blow to President Bazoum’s plan to relocate 130,000 displaced people to Diffa in coming months. Amid insecurity, govt 2 Aug extended state of emergency in Diffa region, as well as in several departments of Tahoua and Tillabery regions. U.S. Under Sec State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland 5 Aug visited capital Niamey, showing commitment to bolstering U.S. ties with Niger as country due to play more important role in region’s security architecture.
Niger emerged as France’s new privileged security partner in Sahel region; jihadist violence continued unabated in south west. During G5 Sahel virtual summit, French President Macron 9 July detailed reconfiguration of French military presence in Sahel region (see Mali), said international Takuba Task Force’s role will be enhanced and its command centre transferred from Mali to Niger; announcement, as well as Macron and Nigerien President Bazoum’s post-summit joint press conference in France’s capital Paris, signal greater role for Niger in regional security architecture. Bazoum same day criticised military junta’s takeover in Mali, prompting Bamako to immediately blame him for going against “spirit of friendship” traditionally uniting both countries. Bazoum 12-13 July visited Algeria, secured agreement for enhanced security cooperation; deal may entail military assistance from Algeria including air support. Meanwhile, in Tillabery region (south west), suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) combatants 11 July stormed Tchoma Bangou village, Ouallam department; military reportedly repelled attack, killing at least 40 militants including senior ISGS commander Malam Younoussa; four soldiers and five civilians also killed. Suspected jihadists 25 and 28 July killed 33 civilians in two villages of Banibangou area, Ouallam department, and 31 July ambushed military supply mission in Torodi area, Say department, leaving 15 killed and six missing. In neighbouring Tahoua region’s Tillia department, suspected ISGS militants 4 July killed civilian in Inizdan village, and ethnic Tuareg militia 6 July abducted two ethnic Fulani individuals between internally displaced person (IDP) sites of Telemces and Assagaygay. Bazoum 2 July toured Diffa region (south east) to bolster support for his plan to relocate 130,000 IDPs, most of whom have fled region in recent years due to repeated jihadist attacks; Local authorities 30 July said over 26,000 people already returned to their hometown. Niamey 9 July said it had reached agreement with Nigeria’s Borno state to repatriate 130,000 Nigerian nationals currently living in Diffa by year’s end.
Suspected jihadists conducted series of attacks in south west, while joint French-Nigerien operations dealt major blow to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). In Tillabery region (south west), ISGS 2 June abducted two in Banibangou area, Ouallam department, and claimed killing two alleged govt informants in Tongo Tongo area (also Ouallam) on around 8 June. Presumed Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 4 June reportedly killed two soldiers in Torodi commune, Say department, and night of 6-7 June abducted two Chinese miners at gold-mining site in Mbanga town, Kollo department. Unidentified assailants 24 June reportedly killed 19 civilians in villages of Danga Zouani and Korombara, Ouallam department. Meanwhile, joint French-Nigerien operations in tri-border area between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso dealt severe blow to ISGS; operations led to capture of several senior ISGS leaders, including Dadi Ould Chouaïb alias “Abu Dardar” 11 June, and killed Almahmoud Ag Baye alias “Ikaraye”, highest-ranking Tuareg leader within ISGS, and his brother 15 June. In Diffa region (south east), Islamic State in West Africa Province militants 5 June attacked gendarmerie post near Diffa city, wounding one gendarme. In Agadez region (centre north), suspected drug or arms traffickers 10 June stormed security post near Assamakka town, Arlit department, killing three members of security forces. Meanwhile, kidnappings and cattle theft continued in Maradi region (south-centre): unidentified gunmen 3 June abducted five civilians in Baban Rafi village, and 10 June killed three civilians and seized livestock in Dan Kouregaou village, both Madarounfa department. In capital Niamey, unidentified gunmen night of 11-12 June stormed residence of National Assembly President Seini Oumarou wielding AK-47 rifles, killing one guard; ISGS 22 June claimed responsibility for attack.
Jihadist violence continued, particularly in south-western Tillabery region, where deadly attacks on civilians triggered mass displacement. In Tillabery region, heavily armed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 4 May attacked military outpost in Intoussan village, Banibangou department, killing at least 16 soldiers and four civilians; jihadists 13 May stormed Fatio village, Tera department, killing five civilians. UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs 17 May reported over 100 civilians killed since early May in Intoussan and Anzourou villages, and over 11,000 from Anzourou area fled following rising attacks against civilians. In neighbouring Tahoua region, presumed ISGS militants 1 May fired at farmers, killing two near Agando village, Tillia department; militants same day ambushed National Guard patrol, killing 16 soldiers in Agando. In Diffa city (south east), Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters 28 May killed four security forces, and four civilians, with at least six attackers dead. Meanwhile, intercommunal tensions persisted. Notably, Zarma groups 4 May killed several Fulani in Banibangou department, Tillabery region. Accusations of serious abuses by Nigerian security forces persisted. International NGO Human Rights Watch 5 May reported that security forces extrajudicially killed at least 185 people since Oct 2019, urged President Bazoum to prioritise seeking justice over abuses. During official visit to Niger, head of Chadian Transitional Military Council General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno 10 May met Bazoum, who on 24 April was appointed as special mediator for Chadian crisis, to discuss future of both countries; also visited G5-affiliated Chadian battalion stationed in Tera city, Tillabery (see Chad). In Arlit (north), civil society groups 9 May issued letter to Bazoum raising concerns about 31 March closure of Akouta uranium mine, including lack of compensation for mine’s 800 subcontractors, and health and environmental risks of burying 20mn cubic metres of radioactive waste.
Jihadists continued to target civilians in south west, fuelling intercommunal tensions, and stepped up attacks on security forces in south east; President Bazoum took office and formed cabinet. In Tillabery region (south west), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) 4 April set several schools on fire in Torodi commune and 17 April killed 19 ethnic Zarma civilians in Gaigorou village near Ayorou town. In Diffa region (south east), Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) 1 April claimed same day IED attack on army vehicle near Mainé-Soroa town. Suspected ISWAP combatants 3 April attacked army camp near Ngagam displacement site killing four soldiers, and 15 April stormed Mainé-Soroa gendarmerie station, killing two. ISWAP attacks on Nigerian Damasak town at border with Niger 14-16 April displaced up to 65,000 people, including hundreds across border into Niger; jihadist threat could intensify in Diffa in coming months as ISWAP’s activity in Nigeria’s Borno state spreads toward Komadougou Yobé River, which marks border with Niger (see Nigeria). National Human Rights Commission 2 April called for independent inquiry into allegations that Chadian soldiers recently deployed as part of G5 Sahel force sexually abused two women and one child in Tera department, Tillabery region; govt next day said it had arrested suspected soldiers. President Bazoum took office 2 April, next day appointed former President Issoufou’s chief of staff, Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou, as PM; Mahamadou’s considerable influence within ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism could help Bazoum broaden his support base within party. Mahamadou 7 April formed govt of 33 ministers including five women, with two opposition parties that supported Bazoum’s candidacy securing nine ministries; most strategic portfolios handed to Issoufou-era heavyweights. Meanwhile, lack of information on late-March heavy gunfire near presidential palace in capital Niamey sparked rumours of fake news. Notably, supporters of runner-up in presidential election Mahamane Ousmane, who still refuses to acknowledge Bazoum’s victory, 1 April accused govt of having fabricated coup attempt to divert attention from opposition demonstrations.
Jihadist violence escalated as spate of attacks left over 200 civilians dead in south west, and authorities foiled coup attempt days before inauguration of president-elect. Suspected jihadist combatants 21 March raided villages of Intazayene, Bakorat and Wistane near Mali border in Tahoua region (south west), killing at least 141 civilians, and further fuelling intercommunal tensions. In neighbouring Tillabery region (also south west), suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) 15 March ambushed passenger vehicles near Chinagoder locality and Darey-Dey village, Ouallam department, reportedly leaving at least 66 mainly ethnic Zarma civilians dead; govt next day said killings were “targeted”. Suspected ISGS also launched other raids in Ouallam, notably killing eight in Dinara village 9 March and six in Kaourakeri village next day. Unidentified assailants 10 March killed at least 11 in three villages in Tillabery. In Diffa region in south east, suspected Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) or Boko Haram faction led by Abubakar Shekau (JAS) 1 March killed four civilians near Garin Wanzam settlement, Gueskérou commune; overnight 2-3 March attacked gendarmerie in Mainé-Soroa town, killing two gendarmes. Meanwhile, presidential runner-up Mahamane Ousmane 8 March filed appeal with Constitutional Court to contest preliminary results of 21 Feb run-off vote, citing irregularities including abnormally high participation in nomadic communes and electoral officials forced to sign records at gunpoint. Constitutional Court 21 March however confirmed ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum as next president; Bazoum due to take office 2 April in first democratic transition of power in country’s history. Ousmane next day denounced “violation” of constitution, saying his appeal had not been examined. Military unit overnight 30-31 March reportedly assaulted presidential palace, but presidential guard repelled assault; govt 31 March said several people had been arrested and condemned attack on “democracy and the rule of law”. U.S.-trained police unit 2 March seized 17 tons cannabis resin worth FCFA 20bn in capital Niamey; authorities subsequently arrested 11 Nigerien nationals and two Algerians in connection with seizure, including former Tuareg rebel and tribal chief El Hadj Ghoumour Atouwa alias “Bidika”.
Post-election violence flared as opposition rejected victory of ruling-party candidate Mohamed Bazoum in 21 Feb presidential runoff. Second round of presidential election between ruling-party candidate Bazoum and former President Mahamane Ousmane 21 Feb disrupted by deadly incident in Dargol commune, Tillabery region (near Mali border) as landmine killed seven poll workers. Electoral commission 23 Feb announced provisional results, saying Bazoum won with 55.75% of vote. Ousmane same day rejected results, citing electoral fraud, and his supporters immediately took to streets in capital Niamey; police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who reportedly ransacked at least one police station and several shops. In Dosso city, about 100km south of Niamey, protesters same day reportedly burnt down political party premises. Ousmane 24 Feb claimed victory with 50.3% of vote, reiterating that fraud had been committed “pretty much everywhere” and prompting protesters to confront security forces in Niamey’s central market area and south-western town of Kollo. Govt 25 Feb said two died in post-election violence and 468 were arrested; also accused opposition figure Hama Amadou, who was barred from running in presidential election, of being “main person responsible” for unrest; after Amadou next day turned himself in to police in Niamey, police detained him over these allegations. Regional body ECOWAS and UN 25 Feb jointly condemned post-election violence and called on all actors to exercise restraint. Meanwhile in Tillabery region (south west), jihadist activity continued albeit at lower intensity than in Jan: suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 5 Feb seized livestock in Kailou Kouara village, Ouallam department. In Maradi region (south), unidentified gunmen conducted series of attack in Guidan-Roumdji department: 5 Feb attacked Guilbadi village, killing at least one and wounding four others; 8 Feb killed student and seized livestock in Dan Mani village, and same day shot three dead in Gaja village. G5 Sahel summit 15-16 Feb held in Chad’s capital N’Djamena; French President Macron announced France would not downsize military forces in Sahel until at least mid-2022, called for “civilian surge” to complement military efforts, and continued to oppose dialogue with jihadist leaders.
Jihadists launched large-scale attack, leaving over 100 civilians dead. In Tillabery region (south west), suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 2 Jan stormed ethnic Zarma villages Tchoma Bangou and Zerma Dare in Ouallam department, killing over 100 villagers and wounding at least 26 more; attack reportedly in retaliation for recent killing of several ethnic Fulani civilians or ISGS members in same villages; UN office for humanitarian affairs 6 Jan said attack displaced over 10,000. In response to incident, Interior Minister Alkache Alhada 4 Jan announced deployment of additional soldiers to area bordering Mali. Also in Tillabery region, ISGS militants 5 Jan reportedly extorted taxes and seized livestock in Ndjeleye village, Tera department. Security situation in Diffa region (south east) remained precarious. Notably, roadside bomb planted by suspected Boko Haram (BH) militants 18 Jan reportedly killed four Nigerien soldiers near Chetima Wangou village; also, combatants of BH faction led by Abubakar Shekau (JAS) and BH splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) 13 Jan allegedly clashed near Maniram village. Further west, bandits continued attacks against villages bordering Nigeria in Maradi region, involving cattle rustling and kidnappings. Following Dec presidential election, electoral commission 2 Jan released provisional results: ruling-party candidate Mohamed Bazoum obtained 39% of vote, falling short of majority, while former President Mahamane Ousmane came in second with 17%. Constitutional Court 30 Jan confirmed results. Second round of elections scheduled for 21 Feb. Bazoum’s Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism secured 80 of the 171 seats in Dec legislative elections. Cap 20/21 opposition coalition 3 Jan denounced results of legislative elections and first round of presidential election, citing electoral fraud in some areas; later announced it would lodge appeal before Constitutional Court, and called on followers to vote for Ousmane in presidential election run-off.
Ahead of 27 Dec general elections, jihadists launched one of deadliest attacks on civilians in years, leaving dozens killed. In Diffa region (south east), Boko Haram (BH) faction led by Abubakar Shekau (JAS) 12 Dec launched one of deadliest attacks on local population in years in Toumour village, killing at least 27 civilians and wounding dozens more. Earlier in month in Diffa, BH splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) combatants 11 Dec stormed domicile of canton chief in Chetimari village, leaving civilian dead; suspected jihadists same day raided Kindjandi town, leaving civilian dead. Jihadists also maintained attacks against security forces in Tillabery region (south west). Notably, suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) combatants 1 Dec killed soldier near Banizoumbou village, Filingué department; suspected al-Qaeda-linked Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) combatants 4 Dec killed two forest guards and wounded three soldiers near La Tapoa town, Say department; clashes between suspected jihadists and security forces 28 Dec left seven soldiers and 11 jihadists dead in Taroun area, Ouallam department. Also in Tillabery, security forces early Dec reportedly killed several Fulani civilians suspected of supporting jihadists in Abala area, Filingué department, and Banibangou area, Ouallam department, while residents in Mogodyougou town, Ouallam department, 8 Dec killed two suspected ISGS combatants. In neighbouring Dosso region, suspected ISGS combatants 3 Dec killed civilian in Rouda Peulh village, Dogon Doutchi department, sparking concerns over ISGS’s expansion southward from Tillabery region. Meanwhile, ahead of 27 Dec general elections, presidential candidates Salou Djibo and Seini Oumarou 16 Dec reiterated doubts over ruling-party candidate Mohamed Bazoum’s nationality, thereby questioning his eligibility. Opposition leader Hama Amadou – barred from running for president by Constitutional Court in Nov – 22 Dec called on supporters to vote for former President Mahamane Ousmane. Vote held 27 Dec without major incidents.
Political tensions increased ahead of 27 Dec presidential election and jihadist violence persisted in south west. Tens of thousands of supporters of Hama Amadou, main opposition candidate in forthcoming presidential election, 7 Nov rallied in football stadium in capital Niamey, in show of force to demonstrate candidate’s ability to mobilise voters. Following months of rumors that ruling-party candidate Mohamed Bazoum was born abroad, sparking doubts about his eligibility, opposition members in Diffa region 11 Nov filed complaint challenging legality of his certificate of nationality. Constitutional Court 13 Nov cleared 30 of 41 candidates to run for president, including Bazoum, but disqualified Amadou, citing his 2017 one-year prison sentence. In following days, Amadou’s supporters adopted belligerent tone on social media. Meanwhile, security situation deteriorated in Tillabery region in south west. Suspected jihadists 6 Nov killed civilian and looted shops in Komane village north of Torodi commune; suspected Islamic State in West Africa Province combatants 10-16 Nov kidnapped at least four civilians in Ouallam and Abala communes. Kidnappings decreased in Diffa region in south east; total of two cases reported throughout month.
Political tensions rose ahead of Dec general elections, while fewer jihadist attacks were reported. Ahead of general elections planned for 27 Dec, controversy emerged over presidential candidates’ eligibility. Ruling party repeatedly claimed opposition candidate and former PM Hama Amadou’s bid was unlawful due to past one-year prison sentence. Meanwhile, rumors spread that ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum was born abroad, sparking doubts over his eligibility. Constitutional Court due to review candidacies and publish final list of candidates by 1 Dec. President Issoufou 14 Oct reiterated his intention not to run for third term and respect peaceful transfer of power. Amid clashes between Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) and rival Boko Haram faction led by Abubakar Shekau (JAS) near Gadia island in Diffa region (south east) early Oct, fewer jihadist attacks reported. ISWAP 13 Oct however attacked military barracks in Toumour commune, Diffa region; death toll unknown. In Tillabery region (south west), suspected jihadists 12-13 Oct abducted Muslim cleric and his son, whom they accused of collaborating with security forces, in Nassirou village near Burkina Faso border. In Tahoua region (south), unidentified assailants night of 26-27 Oct abducted American missionary in Massalata village; U.S. special forces night of 30-31 Oct freed hostage during operation in neighbouring Nigeria, reportedly killing several of his captors.
Amid persistent jihadist violence, independent body accused army of engaging in enforced disappearances. Independent body National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) 4 Sept accused “uncontrolled” army elements of forcibly disappearing over 100 men in Inates and Ayorou areas of Tillabery region in March-April; alleged exactions followed major jihadist attacks in area that left 160 soldiers dead in Dec-Jan; Defence Minister Issoufou Katambe 11 Sept denied soldiers’ responsibility. Islamic State (ISIS) 17 Sept claimed Aug attack that killed six French humanitarian workers and two Nigerien guides in Tillabery’s Kouré national park near capital Niamey. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram faction led by Abubakar Shekau (JAS) early Sept reportedly clashed in Diffa region in south east. Amid insecurity, govt 25 Sept prolonged state of emergency in Diffa, Tahoua, and Tillabery regions. In Agadez region in north, unidentified gunmen 12 Sept attacked military outpost on Arlit-Assamaka axis killing two national guards. Libyan forces affiliated with eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar mid-Sept arrested opposition figure Mahmoud Salah – who in Aug launched “politico-military” group near Niger-Libya border – and transferred him to Niamey. Rainy season peak brought flooding across country, leaving at least 71 dead. Judge in Niamey 29 Sept ordered provisional release of three human rights defenders arrested in March after taking part in protest and charged with “manslaughter”, “complicity in damaging public property” and “arson”; NGO Amnesty International next day called on authorities to drop all charges against them.
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 in Mali (MINUSMA) 30 April said Nigerien security forces 1 Jan-31 March carried out over 30 extrajudicial killings in Mali.
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.
Violence against civilians continued in south east and west despite decrease in attacks against security forces. In Diffa region in south east, abductions of women, traders and traditional chiefs continued. Four soldiers killed when their vehicle detonated mine near Bosso 10 Aug. Boko Haram 23 Aug reportedly killed twelve civilians in Lamana, Gueskero district, Diffa region. In Tillabery region in west, tensions remained high despite decrease in jihadist attacks. Media 18 Aug alleged Malian ex-rebel Coalition of Azawad Movements (CMA) had facilitated 1 July attack against military camp in Inates close to Malian border claimed by Islamic State in the Greater Sahara; CMA denied accusations.