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Islamic State and al-Qaida militants pose serious threat to Niger: Defence Minister

By News Express on 20/07/2018

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•Niger Defense Minister Kalla Mountari
•Niger Defense Minister Kalla Mountari

A senior defense official from Niger has told VOA that different militant groups operating along the country’s borders are threatening the security of the state and the region.

Niger Minister of Defense Kalla Mountari told VOA that the militant groups associated with Islamic State and al-Qaida pose a serious threat to Niger and could infiltrate the country if preemptive measures are not taken against them by regional powers.

“Certainly, this is an existential threat to us. Even though they may look weak now, terror groups are still strong in some areas [around us] and their stated intention is to establish a caliphate and bring our countries onto their knees,” Mountari said.

He added that the threat of militants could also threaten the security of Europe if they manage to establish safe havens in Niger — given the country’s proximity to Libya and the fact that Libya does not have an effective central government to prevent militants from crossing through the country to enter Europe.

Niger’s senior defense official warned about the threat of militants amid reports that the United States has begun arming its reconnaissance drones in an effort to collect intelligence on militant groups' whereabouts in the region.

The drones are being operated from the country’s capital, Niamey, and Agadez, in the north.

“They [the U.S.] have answered our calls. This is huge because it will serve as a deterrent to those terrorists who wish to attack us,” Mountari said.

“Unlike before when they attack and disappear, knowing we don’t have the means of pursuing them, now they would be hunted and taken out from above,” he added, referring to armed U.S drones.

The U.S. military has confirmed the deployment of armed drones to Niger in an effort to respond to growing threats in the region.

“In coordination with the government of Niger, U.S. Africa Command has armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft already in Niger to improve our combined ability to respond to threats and other security issues in the region,” Samantha Reho, a spokeswoman for the U.S military’s Africa Command ( AFRICOM), told VOA.

“Niger is in a strategic location surrounded on three fronts by terrorist organizations based in Libya, Mali and Nigeria,” Reho added.

The decision to use armed drones over Niger came in the aftermath of last year’s deadly attack against a joint U.S.-Nigerien patrol that led to the deaths of four American and several Nigerien soldiers. The soldiers were reportedly on a joint patrol near Niger’s border with Mali. (VOA)

Source News Express

Posted 20/07/2018 11:49:03 AM





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