Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Happy anniversary, rebellion: MNJ releases 25 prisoners

The Tuareg-led rebel movement in Niger has released two dozen military officers and a regional governor who have been held captive for the past few months.

Their release was brokered by the government of Libya, which then flew the hostages from Agadez to Niamey, the country’s capital.

The Niger Movement for Justice, or MNJ, claimed it released the hostages to mark the one-year anniversary of their uprising. They have demanded more integration of Tuaregs into the army, a greater decentralized government (especially in the north) and up to 15 percent of profits on uranium, which is mined in the northern part of the country. In 2000, uranium sold for $7 per pound; today it sells for nearly $90.

The Nigerien government has long claimed the MNJ is a splinter group of bandits and drug smugglers, fighting to keep their supply routes active.

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