Two die in Niger clash with Sahel bandits – officials


Two people died following a clash between security forces and bandits in northern Niger, where al Qaeda’s North African wing operates alongside smugglers, rebels and criminals, said Niger officials.

The skirmish between security forces and the assailants left one dead on either side, in the Sahara-Sahel region of the country near the uranium mining town of Arlit, the defence ministry of the West African state said.
“A soldier was killed and six others wounded while a gunman was killed,” a statement read over Niger’s national television on Monday said, Reuters reports.

In addition, the army recovered a four-wheel drive vehicle containing 640 kilograms of explosives, 435 detonators, various military arsenal and the sum of US$ 90,000 in cash, the statement added.

There are growing concerns that following the Libyan conflict, small arms could flow in to the region and may pose a bigger regional threat.

Nations of the region including Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Algeria said in May they will set up, within 18 months, a joint force of up to 75,000 soldiers to secure their shared Sahara-Sahel desert zone, which they are struggling to control and where al Qaeda’s North African wing has stepped up attacks.