Cablegate: Niger: The Situation in the North

DE RUEHNM #1430/01 3391819
P 051819Z DEC 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: (A) NIAMEY 1404(B) NIAMEY 1391


1. (SBU) A truck hit a landmine south of Agadez on December
5. The Nigerien Military has resupplied its garrison in
Ifeoruane. The MNJ claims the United States as friend based
on a VOA stringer's contact with it. The GON is organizing a
regional conference on trafficking. A UN consultant has
provided information on the use of landmines in Niger. End

Latest Mine incident

2. (U) A civilian truck carrying commercial goods hit a mine
just south of Agadez on the road to Zinder December 4. It
does not appear that anyone was killed in the incident.

Nigerien Military relieves Iferouane

3. (U) A large Nigerien Armed Forces (FAN) convoy reached
the beleaguered northern town of Iferouane the week of 26-30,
bringing much needed supplies and fresh troops to relieve the
several hundred soldiers there. The vast majority of the
civilian population of the town had already left due to
shortages of food and other essential goods, as well as
security concerns (ref B).

4. (SBU) The details of the resupply mission remain murky.
The MNJ has claimed on its web site that the convoy was a
failed offensive on the MNJ stronghold at Tezarzeit that
suffered significant casualties, including the convoy
commander. In an interview with RFI, the GON spokesman said
that the convoy was not an offensive, and that it suffered
only three killed. A US NGO with operations in Agadez reports
that military sources in Agadez have claimed that the FAN had
attacked rebel camps in the Mount Tamgak region.

5. (SBU) Comment: All indications are that the convoy's
primary objective was to resupply Iferouane rather than to
attack MNJ positions. It appears to have succeeded in that
task and has returned to Agadez. We have no independent
information on casualties.

MNJ names its friends

6. (U) In a November 30 posting on its web site, the MNJ said
that the Nigerien people should recognize who their true
friends are: the United States and Italy. Those countries
are concerned about the Nigerien people, as evidenced by two
articles, which the site reprints. The first is a November
11 VOA broadcast titled "Tuareg Rebels Gathering Strength in
Niger. The second is an article in an Italian publication.

7. (SBU) The VOA item cites Phuong Tran as reporting by
satellite phone from an undisclosed location in Niger where
she had been traveling with the Tuareg rebels. We have had
no contact with Tran, but understand that she is a VOA
stringer based in Dakar who entered Niger (probably
illegally) from northern Mali.

GON to organize regional conference

8. (U) GON officials have long cited a proposal to hold a
regional security conference. At a December 4 ceremony, it
installed the committee charged with organizing "an
International Conference on the trafficking of drugs, arms
and cigarettes." The organizing committee will be chaired by
the Interior Minister and will include the Ministers of
Justice, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Regional Integration, and
representatives of a host of Ministries. In his speech
announcing the organizing committee, the Prime Minister did
not provide details on where the conference would take place,
when it would take place, or who would be invited.

9. (SBU) Comment: The description of the proposed conference
as dealing with trafficking is consistent with the GON's
long-standing claim that the MNJ are criminals and bandits.

NIAMEY 00001430 002 OF 002

It also suggests that the conference will not address the
grievances made by the MNJ or other rebel groups in the
region. However, High Commissioner for Peace Restoration
Mohamed Anacko, who is charged with overseeing the
implementation of the peace accords that ended the rebellion
in the early 1990s, is a member of the organizing committee.

UNDP Mine briefing

10. (U) A UN consultant who had been in Niger looking into
the use of land mines briefed the diplomatic corps on
November 30. Following are key points:

-- From April 14 to November 24 there have been 21 landmine
incidents resulting in 78 victims (12 civilians and 66
soldiers), of which 27 were killed and 51 wounded.

-- These incidents have contributed to a 80 percent decline
in commercial and passenger traffic in northern Niger, a 40
percent fall in garden crop production and a 100 percent
decline in tourism. The tourism losses are estimated at cfa
5 billion (about $11 million).

-- All landmines known to have been used to date are
anti-tank mines. No antipersonnel mines have been used.

-- The MNJ has used old Belgian PRBM3A1 mines weighing about
six kilograms. The mines are smuggled in from Chad and cost
about cfa 300,000 - 500,000 each (about $671 - 1,119 at the
current exchange rate).

-- There are reports that the mines were provided by Chadians
who had been trained in demining some years ago, and are now
digging up mines to sell.

-- There are also reports of the use of Italian mines that
are harder to detect than the Belgian mines.

-- FAN chief of operations Colonel Soumaila Garba said that
the FAN only uses mines for defensive purposes, although he
was unclear as to whether it used anti-personnel mines as
well as anti-tank mines. He said that it was no secret where
the FAN obtained its mines, but it he did not say where that

-- The UN consultant said that no unexploded ordnance had
been found, but the French Defense attache said he had photos
of unexploded ordinance found near the scene of a June 24
attack at Tezerzait.

-- The UN consultant was in Niger November 11 to December 1.
He was not able to go north of Agadez due to security
concerns. A vehicle in the convoy in which he returned from
Agadez struck a mine on November 24.

MNJ web site

11. (SBU) Comment: In the last few weeks the MNJ has
increased the frequency of postings on its web site. The
tone of the postings have become increasingly shrill. The
quality of the French as declined and the postings
increasingly resort to hyperbole and the use of large fonts
and red ink for emphasis. The web site appears to claim more
military success than the MNJ has accomplished, and the
bellicose tone may be designed to mask the relatively limited
MNJ military actions since the end of its Ramadan ceasefire.

© Scoop Media

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