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Cablegate: Niger: 2009 Country Report On Terrorism

VZCZCXRO7745
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0987/01 3501331
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161331Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5521
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEILB/NCTC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000987

DEPT FOR S/CT (SHORE), AF/W, AF/RSA, INL, DS/IP/AF, AND DS/TIA/ITA
PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER ASEC SNAR PGOV SOCI KISL PHUM PREL NG
SUBJECT: Niger: 2009 Country Report on Terrorism

Ref: State 109980

1. (SBU) Summary: Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb
(AQIM) has demonstrated a greater interest in the Republic of Niger
(RON) in 2009, with attempts to extend its influence into Nigerien
territory from the largely ungoverned region bordering Mali and
Algeria. The porous borders and ungoverned spaces provide violent,
extremist groups such as AQIM a promising environment for weapons
and drug trafficking, recruiting, people and contraband smuggling,
undetected transit, and logistical facilitation. The RON's severe
resource constraints stemming from its status as one of the poorest
countries in the world, and the ongoing political crisis, hamper the
Nigerien government's ability to prevent AQIM intrusion.
Additionally, extremist sects in northern Nigeria, such as the Boko
Haram movement, have drawn Nigerien followers and pose a threat of
spreading extremism into Niger. End summary.

Niger's Security Environment
----------------------------
2. (SBU) Niger is at great risk from the spread of terrorism and
violent extremist organizations. Stark poverty, porous borders,
large ungoverned spaces and the proximity to known safe havens of
southern Algeria, northern Mali and northern Nigeria make Niger
particularly vulnerable. Further, the Government of Niger's (GON)
historic tensions with Tuareg rebel groups, traditionally associated
with cross-Sahara smuggling in northern Niger, contributes to the
potential establishment of a breeding ground for future terrorists.
In spite of these external threats, the vast majority of Nigeriens
practice a moderate form of Sufi Islam and popular opinion condemns
violence and terrorism. In Niger, terrorism is of external origin,
rather than being indigenous.

3. (SBU) The GON counterterrorism program has improved to include
the use of updated terrorist watch lists, more consistent border
patrols and regular monitoring of mosques believed to espouse
extremist views. (Note: Border crossings are not automated and rely
on handwritten ledgers to record entry and exit. End note.)
Further, Nigerien military forces routinely engage smugglers who
attempt to take advantage of the open spaces and porous borders in
the north. The GON has been receptive to Western and regional
counterterrorism training and is a Trans Sahara Counter-Terrorism
Partnership (TSCTP) country. Niger, now with a diminished role in
TSCTP due to USG policy holds and sanctions, has turned primarily to
regional partners and organizations to support its counterterrorism
efforts, notably the Algerian-led counterterrorist coalition
comprised of Algeria, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania.

Events Impacting Niger
----------------------
4. (U) On December 14, 2008 AQIM-affiliated persons kidnapped and
held hostage UN Special Envoy, Robert Fowler, his colleague, Louis
Guay, and a local Nigerien driver. They were captured by AQIM
within 40 kilometers of Niamey, taken across the Mali border and
held hostage in the Sahara desert for 130 days. On January 22,
2009, along the Mali/Niger border, AQIM-affiliated persons kidnapped
four European tourists and held them hostage in the Sahara desert.
Three of the European hostages were released months later, but one
hostage, a Brit, was killed.

5. (SBU) In October 2009, an AQIM-linked Mauritanian was captured in
Niamey following his involvement in terror related activities
outside Niger.

6. (SBU) On 14 November 2009, AQIM associates, armed with AK-47
assault rifles attempted to kidnap five U.S. Embassy personnel from
a hotel in Tahoua. The failed operation is believed to have been
sanctioned by AQIM leaders. The perpetrators of this attempted
kidnapping have yet to be captured.

7. (SBU) Although the rise of violent extremist organizations in
northern Nigeria has yet to directly impact southern Niger, a very
real threat exists. Northern Nigeria and southern Niger share a
common Hausa ethnicity, numerous economic and cultural links, and a
long, porous border. Immediately following the July 2009 Nigerian
break-up of the Boko Haram (anti-Western influence) group, Nigerien
ties to the group were revealed when dozens of Boko Haram members
were deported from Nigeria to their home cities in southern Niger.

Prospects for the Future
------------------------
8. (SBU) As Niger enters 2010, the horizon looks very troubling with
increasing threats from AQIM in the north and west, from the Boko
Haram movement and similar groups from Nigeria. The growing threats
together with the looming political crisis in Niger, as sanctions
are implemented, may limit the much-needed international assistance

NIAMEY 00000987 002 OF 002


that can be offered to the GON; this presents an environment ripe
for exploitation by terrorist and violent, extremist groups. To
date, moderate Islam and the Nigerien intolerance for violence have
prevented terrorism from taking root, but without external support
and regional cooperation, Niger will remain vulnerable.

9. (U) Embassy Niamey point of contact for terrorism-related issues
is Pol Officer Syga Thomas, who can be reached at
thomass2@state.gov.

ALLEN

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