10 aid workers kidnapped in Niger’s southwestern Tillaberi region

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24 June 2020

A group of 10 humanitarian workers from the NGO Action and Impact Progress have been kidnapped by a group of unidentified gunmen

On Wednesday 24 June, a group of 10 humanitarian aid workers have been abducted by unidentified gunmen. The aid workers were associated with the non-governmental organization Action and Impact Progress (APIS), which has collaborated with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Niger, near the borders with Burkino Faso and Mali. Kadidiatou Harouna, an official with APIS, said the incident happened in the afternoon while the aid workers were distributing food in a village in the southwestern Tillaberi region. The assailants drove on motorbikes and told the victims to follow them. For days, there was no news on their whereabouts. However, last week Tillaberi region governor Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that all ten aid workers were released on Wednesday, the first of July.

While Niger has been relatively safe, surrounding countries Mali and Burkino Faso have repeatedly faced violent incidents which have spilled into Niger. According to UN Figures, around 4000 people were killed in Niger, Burkino Faso and Mali last year, despite the presence of thousands of domestic and foreign troops in the region. In particular the Sahel region is becoming the epicentre of an Islamist insurgency, with groups affiliated to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State repeatedly attacking civilians, aid workers and soldiers. In the past, a German aid worker and Italian priest were abducted, and vehicles from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have been stolen as well.

In response to the increasing instability of the Sahel region, France has deployed over 5000 troops in West Africa. The country has lobbied hard in for military support, resulting in a European counter-terrorism task force called Takuba which will support the Malian troops in the region. Takuba is part of Operation Barkhana, and under French command rather than an international organisation. Around 100 Estonians and French will be deployed in the upcoming months, followed by 60 Czechs later and 150 Swedes in 2021. 


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Author: Roos Middelkoop

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