Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Niger: MNJ attacks northern town, abducts governor, kills seven soldiers

In a daring raid on a town in northern Niger, members of the Movement of Nigeriens for Justice captured a regional governor, several soldiers and a large cache of weapons, Agence France Presse reported.

The group claimed at 6 pm, January 21 it attacked Tanhout, a small town 200 km southeast of Agadez. It was the first time the group, known as its French acronym MNJ, captured a Nigerien citizen in their 11-month rebellion in northern Niger. During the raid, the MNJ claimed to have killed seven soldiers.

The governor of Zinder, a town to the east of Tanhout, Yahaya Yandaka confirmed Tanhout was attacked by an unknown number of men "moving around on three 4WD vehicles mounted with 12.7 mm machine guns".

Yandaka, speaking Tuesday on national radio said the attack left three people dead -- two soldiers and one civilian -- and six others wounded, five of them seriously.

He said a total of five people were taken prisoner: four soldiers, including one officer and the prefect of Tanhout Abdou Garba Kona.

Another two soldiers are reported missing, he said.

On it’s website, the MNJ claimed it targeted the Prefet of Tanout because of his “anti-republican acts” and the fact he held a meeting attempt to threaten officials into reporting locals who support the rebellion.

The killing of the seven soldiers puts the Niger military’s death toll over 50. The MNJ claims they are fighting for a higher percentage of profits from Niger’s uranium mines.

The government has insisted that leaders of the MNJ are merely bandits and smugglers without support among people in the north. The BBC claimed that some parts of Niger are calling on Niger President Mamadou Tandja to reconsider his position of not negotiating with the rebels.

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