A stormfront involving radical Islamist terrorist groups has been gathering in Niger over the years since the killing of Gadhafi which resulted in the destabilization of Libya and the consequent movement of Islamic State (IS) fighters moving from the middle east to sub-Saharan Africa.
The kidnap of Christian missionaries for ransom in Mali and Niger as well as the killing of Nigerien security operatives have drawn the French army in to stabilize the government in Niger as well as to counter the export of terrorists to Europe.
The ambush and killing of four green beret operatives of the 3rd Special Forces group of the US army has underscored the deadly alliances building up in Niger. Western strategists observed that Niger is becoming the theatre of Jihadism, connecting Malian militia, Boko Haram Islamic terrorist sects from Nigeria, Al Shabab from the Horn of Africa and ISIS fighters.
Major-General J. Marcus Hiks, Commander of SOCA, says: “All of my African partners here will tell you that the collapse of Libya is absolutely causal in increased instability across the region, the flow of weapons and trained armed militias has destabilized Northern Mali and continues to feed the terrorist groups across the Sahel.”
Colonel Razak Ibrahim from the Niger special forces said “The traditional extremists groups use the immigrant network because immigrants and refugees are very very vulnerable and easy to recruit. The jihadists take advantage of that situation to infiltrate all the countries thanks to them.”
Human trafficking is not the only happening there. “The whole criminal economy is feeding the terrorism,” the Niger Defence Minister, Kalla Moutari, said. “Those who take the immigrants to go to Libya, they come back with the arms. They are also involved in drug trafficking.”
To contain the growing threat in the region, local authorities need to be trained and assisted to take on the challenges. And Nigeriens need to have a stake in the fight against terrorism.
Sam Pineda from the US State Department, Counter-terrorism unit, says: “When border security forces, for example, are out on the borders and pick up individuals, that they can transfer those folks to the civilian institutions. They can do the investigations and they can process them through a rule of law construct here, inside the country.”
“Europe’s security depends on what happens here. It’s very important because you see very well that Europe was threatened by terrorism, attacks, drug and human beings trafficking.” Raul Mateus Paula, The EU ambassador to Niger, said.
The storm building up in the region is grave concern to everyone.