Niger - joint patrols to bar Boko Haram

2012-10-07 19:13
At least 31 people have been killed and nearly 100 000 more left homeless by severe flooding that has affected Niger since mid-July. (Boureima Hama, AFP)

At least 31 people have been killed and nearly 100 000 more left homeless by severe flooding that has affected Niger since mid-July. (Boureima Hama, AFP)

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Niamey - Niger, struggling to keep Islamist movements from spilling in from its north and south, wants to start joint military patrols along its border with Nigeria, the government said.

The West African state has so far managed to avoid a rebellion that split neighbouring Mali in two, but is now worried about Islamist fighters from Nigeria's Boko Haram sect to the south.

"Our co-operation must be reinforced by starting joint patrols along the border, which have been planned but delayed," Niger Justice Minister Marou Amadou said on state television late on Saturday after a meeting with Nigerian officials.

"Niger is determined to combine its efforts with others... to face the threat that al-Qaeda and Boko Haram pose for security in our countries," he said.

Niger and Nigeria have been debating the possibility of joint patrols along their 1 500km border since 2008, but have yet to start them even with Boko Haram now waging a low-level insurgency against Nigeria's government.

Boko Haram, whose name translates roughly to "Western education is bad" in the local Haussa language, wants to carve an Islamic state out of Nigeria, and has been blamed for hundreds of deaths in bombings and shootings.

Keep Qaeda out

In Mali, a Tuareg separatist rebellion early this year was hijacked by rebel groups linked to al-Qaeda, seeking to impose a strict version of shar'iah (Islamic law).

Since January, Niger - one of the world's poorest and least developed countries - has reinforced its border operations to keep such instability from spilling over.

Around 3 000 Nigerien troops were deployed along the northern border with Mali, Algeria and Libya and special forces units along the southern border with Nigeria.

Niger also uses aerial surveillance to police its vast and uranium-rich northern desert, where al-Qaeda's north African wing is known to operate, officials said.

At the end of September, Niger security forces arrested five people suspected of being Boko Haram operatives in the Zinder region bordering Nigeria.

A military official told Reuters that Boko Haram members try to cross the border nearly daily but that they are probably transiting toward rebel-occupied northern Mali instead of setting up camps in Niger.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  boko haram  |  mali  |  niger  |  nigeria  |  west africa  |  religion
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