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Niger strengthens its army to tackle al-Qaeda: minister
by Staff Writers
Niamey (AFP) Dec 9, 2011

Niger has strengthened its armed forces to "stand up to the terrorist threat," in particular Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Defence Minister Mahamadou Karidjo said Friday.

"The defence and security forces have today acquired enough weaponry and their transport and aircraft have been improved to stand up to the terrorist threat that Niger faces," Karidjo said in a televised interview.

In early November, France offered military equipment to its ally Niamey to help in the fight against terrorism in Niger, a large mainly desert nation with uranium as its primary resource.

Four French nationals kidnapped by AQIM on September 16, 2010, at Arlit, a centre of uranium mining, are still being held somewhere in the vast Sahel on the southern edge of the Sahara.

The minister said that "special anti-terrorism units" had been formed, as well as "elements for rapid intervention and for observation to give forewarning of attacks".

"We have also moved a large number of personnel from Niamey to the zones under threat, notably Tillaberi and Tahoua (in the west) and Agadez (in the north), all close to Mali, Algeria and Libya," he added.

"Airborne and ground surveillance of roads and mining sites has been stepped up. Right round the clock, our forces are active to raise the overall level of security," the minister said.

But he deplored the deaths on December 2 of two servicemen when their plane, an ultra-light Tetras, crashed on landing after a reconnaissance mission over the desert.

The minister added that military patrols at the border with Libya had to date seized about 100 weapons of various calibres, large amounts of explosives and ammunition, highly sophisticated communications equipment and more than 5,000 kilograms (11,000 pounds) of cannabis resin, as well as sums of money.

The conflict in Libya that led to the death of longtime strongman Moamer Kadhafi last September 20 and the downfall of his regime raised fears of trafficking in weapons involving and affecting neighbouring countries.

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US military a prime 'target' for home-grown terrorists
Washington (AFP) Dec 7, 2011
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