Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou told FRANCE 24 on Saturday that the suicide bombers responsible for deadly twin attacks on a military base and a French uranium mine in Niger came from Libya.
Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou told FRANCE 24 on Saturday that the suicide bombers behind twin attacks on a military base and a French-operated uranium mine in the country came from southern Libya.
The coordinated bombings, which occurred at dawn on Thursday, claimed the lives of at least 20 people at the base in Niger’s desert city of Agadez and Areva’s Somair mine in the remote town of Arlit, a key supplier of uranium for France’s nuclear power programme.
“The assailants, according to all the information that we’ve acquired, came from southern Libya,” Issoufou told FRANCE 24. “The fact is that Libya remains a destabilising force for the Saharan countries.”
Issoufou's comments came after his government announced that French special forces and Nigerien troops had fatally shot the last two Islamists involved in the bombings early on Friday at the military barracks in Agadez, where they had holed up.
The attacks have been claimed by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a one-eyed veteran of al Qaeda's North African operations, who issued a statement saying that his Mulathameen Brigade organised the raids with the help of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) in retaliation for Niger's role in a French-led war on Islamists in Mali.
Niger has emerged as a firm ally of France and the United States in the fight against al Qaeda-linked groups in the Sahel. It has deployed 650 troops in neighbouring Mali and sought to shut its porous desert borders to Islamist groups that are thought to have shifted their bases to southern Libya.
Belmokhtar, signing his statement with his pseudonym Khalid Abu al-Abbas, said the raids were a response to Issoufou’s public claims that the Islamists had been defeated in Mali.
“We will have more operations by the strength and power of Allah and not only that, but we will move the battle to inside [Issoufou's] country if he doesn’t withdraw his mercenary army,” said the communiqué, the authenticity of which could not be verified.
Belmokhtar’s brigade has also claimed responsibility for January’s attack on the In Amenas gas plant in southeastern Algeria in which 37 foreigners were killed.