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Niger Armed Forces receive new aircraft, vehicles

altThe Nigerien military has taken delivery of two new Cessna aircraft and ten trucks from the United States, providing a boost to the Niger Armed Forces.

Two Cessna Caravans and ten Toyota trucks were handed over to the Nigerien military on July 5 during a ceremony at Nigerien Airbase 101 in the capital Niamey. The ceremony was attended by officials from Niger and the United States, including General Seyni Garba, the Nigerien Joint Chief of Staff, US Ambassador Bisa Williams, Nigerien Minister of Defence Karidio Mahamadou and Brigadier General Issa Mounkaila, Commander of the Nigerien Military Police.

The aircraft and trucks will be used mainly for border security and moving cargo, US Africa Command (Africom) said in a statement.

The single engine Caravans were purchased through the US National Defence Authorization Act Section 1206 programme that is jointly administered by the US Department of Defence and the US State Department. The $11 million package covered the initial costs of the aircraft and related expenses, including maintenance and pilot training, Africom said.

The ten new trucks were obtained under the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) program. The small trucks are part of a $4.2 million package that includes larger water and fuel trucks that will be delivered later. The vehicles will be used to enhance border security efforts across Niger, Africom said.

Niger has become a smuggling route for weapons from Libya reaching al Qaeda militants deeper in the Sahara since Muammar Gaddafi's fall in late 2011. Thousands of gunmen and tonnes of weapons and ammunition flowed south, mainly to Mali, after the fall of Libya's former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The US military has run training programmes for Niger's army for years under its counter-terrorism programme in the Sahel and has deployed about 100 military personnel and drones in Niger as part of the operation to dislodge Islamic militants from neighbouring Mali.

Niger is among the West African countries which contributed troops to the regional AFISMA force battling Islamists in Mali alongside a 4 000-strong French contingent.

Niger’s small military comprises some 5 000 personnel. The army has a dozen AML-60 and 88 AML-90 armoured cars and 14 M-3 armoured personnel carriers in service, according to The World Defence Almanac 2012, while the air force flies a single C-130H, Do-28D, Do-228, Boeing 737, two Diamond DA 42 and three ULM Tetra aircraft.
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