Niger has decreed an amnesty for rebel Tuareg fighters who laid down their arms this month, the desert state said in the latest step aimed at achieving peace in its uranium-rich north.
Niger and neighbouring Mali agreed on Oct. 6 to a peace deal with most of the main rebel groups who since 2007 have led an uprising in a region where al Qaeda cells also operate.
The amnesty was passed in a decree by President Mamadou Tandja, according to a statement read out on state television.
There have been a number of abductions of foreign mining workers by rebels in the region over the past two years, including the brief kidnapping of four employees of France’s Areva mining group in 2008 and the week-long abduction of a Chinese worker the year before.
One key rebel chief, Rhissa Ag Boula of the FFR faction and leader of an earlier Tuareg rebellion in 1990, has said he will reject the Libyan-brokered peace deal.
Niger is under threat of sanctions, including the possible suspension of European Union development aid, after a series of steps by Tandja that have allowed him to extend his term in office and broaden his presidential powers.