x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

France says it will protect its interests following Niger bombings

Suicide bombers in Niger have detonated two car bombs simultaneously, one in a military camp in the city of Agadez and another in the town of Arlit inside a French-operated uranium mine.

PARIS // The French president, Francois Hollande, vowed yesterday to help Niger "destroy" the militants who launched deadly attacks against a military base and a French-run uranium mine in the west African country.

Suicide bombers in Niger detonated two car bombs simultaneously yesterday, one in a military camp in the city of Agadez and another in the town of Arlit inside a French-operated uranium mine, killing at least 25 and injuring 29, according to the ministry of defence.

"We will have the same will to cooperate with Niger to fight against terrorism and will also protect our interests," Mr Hollande said.

"Everybody should know that we will let nothing pass and support Niger's authorities to end the hostage taking and annihilate the group that carried out these attacks."

Uranium extraction in Niger represents about 20 per cent of France's needs for its nuclear power stations.

An Islamist militant group claimed responsibility for the attacks, said French radio RFI.

The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, is a spin-off of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which, along with MUJAO, controlled a France-sized chunk of northern Mali for nearly 10 months last year. They were flushed out of the major towns in northern Mali by a French-led military intervention, which began in January.

MUJAO and Al Qaeda's chapter in Africa warned that they would hit French interests all over the world in revenge, as well as all African states that help them.

The blasts yesterday are the most damaging attacks by militants in Niger and succeeded in hitting both an important French asset and the Niger military, which sent 650 troops against the Islamists in Mali.

The highest toll was in Agadez, almost 1,000 kilometres north of the capital, where the three attackers punched their explosive-laden car in to a military base, killing 20 soldiers when they detonated themselves, said the Niger minister of defence, Mahamadou Karidjo, in the capital, Niamey.

Mr Karidjo said the government decreed a 72-hour national period of mourning. He said that another two suicide bombers died in Arlit.

The Paris-based nuclear giant Areva said in a statement that one of its employees had died and 13 others were injured in the mine attack.

* Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press