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Cablegate: Niger: Saudis Ambushed, Killed Near Mali Border

VZCZCXRO7409
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #1018 3631818
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 291818Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5545
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1717

UNCLAS NIAMEY 001018

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DS/IP/AF, AND DS/TIA/ITA
DEPT PLS PASS TO USAID FOR AFR/W
ACCRA ALSO FOR USAID/WA
PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER ASEC PREL PGOV CASC SA NG
SUBJECT: Niger: Saudis Ambushed, Killed Near Mali Border

1. (U) Summary: Unknown assailants ambushed a Saudi hunting party
in western Niger near the Malian border on December 28 during early
morning prayers, killing at least three and wounding three others.
The Government of Niger (GON) has deplored the "barbaric act" and
the Saudi Arabian Government has dispatched an aircraft to retrieve
its nationals. Investigations continue. The attack took place in
an area off-limits to U.S. mission personnel, a location
approximately 100 km from the December 2008 kidnappings of two UN
officials of Canadian nationality. End summary.

Assailants Ambush Saudi Party near Mali Border
--------------------------------------------- -
2. On December 28, at approximately 5:00 a.m. near the village of
Djamballa (20 km north of the regional capital of Tillaberi, 120 km
northeast of Niamey), three men ambushed a group of six Saudi
Arabian nationals (including one who is reported to be a prince of
one of the Royal Saudi families). The assailants, armed with one
AK-47 and one FM assault rifle, travelled in an SUV (possibly a
Toyota Land Cruiser). The Saudis, hosted by a Malian national with
his cousin, arrived from Casablanca. The Malian is a customs
officer for the Government of Mali and his cousin is a student.

Saudi Falconers Ambushed; 3 Killed
----------------------------------
3. (U) The group, traveling in a three-car convoy, sought to proceed
to Kidal, Mali for falcon hunting. In the town of Djamballa, the
group stopped to pray. The three assailants ambushed the group
during their prayers. The assailants demanded in Arabic that the
victims put their hands up and to give them their money. An
argument ensued, and the prince was shot in the left leg, which
caused a severe break in the leg. One victim was then shot trying
to protect the prince. The other people were lined up and shot at
close range. A total of three Saudi Arabian citizens were killed
and three others were injured, one seriously. (Note: Accounts vary
on the exact number of Saudis killed and wounded, with other reports
stating that four were killed and two wounded. End note.)

GON Deplores "Barbaric Acts;" Aircraft Dispatched
--------------------------------------------- ----
4. (U) On GON-run television "Tele Sahel," the GON spokesperson
announced that the GON "deplores these barbaric acts" and
"reiterates its determination" to fight crime. According to Jedda
Saudi Gazette online, Saudi officials dispatched an air ambulance to
transfer the victims of the attack. The two Malians were not
injured in the attack. The assailants departed the scene with the
prince's duffle/personal bag.

Police Investigating; Shell Casings, Money Found
--------------------------------------------- ---
5. (SBU) The National Police are investigating this case. Local
police secured the scene and began processing evidence. At the
preliminary stage of the investigation, police recovered 38 shell
casings at the scene of the ambush and over two million CFA
(approximately USD 4,400) in one of the vehicles. (Note: Current
exchange rate is 1USD = 455 CFA. End note.) The Tillaberi
gendarmes have detained the Malian customs officer and are
questioning him. Radio France Internationale reported that local
authorities claim three suspects are in detention and being
questioned; this is yet uncorroborated.

Comment
-------
6. (U) The region in which the attack occurred has been in Mission
Niamey's no-travel area since the beginning of 2009. This road is
the primary route between Niamey and the Malian border, and is the
same road along which two UN officials of Canadian nationality were
kidnapped in December 2008. The locations of the two incidents are
separated by approximately 100 km.

ALLEN

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