Last updateVen, 30 Jan 2015 9pm

Heavy price for key role in fight against terrorism

Security - Despite paying a heavy price for its role in the fight against terrorism, Niger has refused to give in to the forces of evil, instead stepping up its efforts to combat them. Two major attacks in the north of the West African nation year jolted it from whatever complacency it might have. The double attacks were carried out against an Agadez military base (900km of north of the capital city of Niamey) and the mining town of Arlit.

In total, eight Islamists - all equipped with explosive belts - were killed in Agadez, where 23 Nigerien soldiers and a Cameroonian soldier undergoing training in Niger also lost their lives.

Analysts believe that the Islamists targeted Niger because of the role it played in combating the separatists and Islamists in Mali, sending 500 soldiers as part of the international team that helped to flush out the rebels.

The terrorist group MUJAO (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa) claimed responsibility for the attacks, with its spokesman, Abu Walid Saharawi, saying the group attacked Niger for its cooperation with France in the 'war against the Sharia'.

In response to the twin attacks, the Nigerien president Mahamadou Issoufou showed his determination to fight 'the evil forces that are hidden behind false ideals related to Islam, to create chaos in the sub-region'.

According to Niger's government, the jihadist attack was launched from Libya, where most of the Islamists dislodged from Mali retreated to.

About ten days after the attacks in Agadez and Arlit, two guards of Niamey's prison were killed by inmates, with the attack being blamed on those that were jailed for terrorism. Some 22 people, including terrorists, escaped from the prison after the attack.

Nigerien Justice Minister Maru Amadou said among those who escaped was one Chedani , who is serving time for the murder of four Saudi Arabian and one American citizens.

Despite its efforts at countering the insurgents, the country has continued to suffer attacks or threats of attacks.

In November 2013, thanks to an investigations by Niger's intelligence services, a man who was planning terrorist attacks on two strategic sites in Niamey was arrested.

The government said the attacks, if carried out, would have been tragic in terms of the loss of lives and property and the implication for the country's economy.

Already, the country's economy is reeling from the impact of the attacks that have so far been carried out, with French company Areva, the largest employer in the country, being forced to suspend its activities.

Pana 28/01/2014