Overview: Niger faces terrorist threats on five of its seven national borders. The Government of Niger (GoN) remains committed to denying terrorists safe haven within its territory. It cooperated with its neighbors and with international partners, including INTERPOL, and is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, the Multi-National Joint Task Force, and the G5 Sahel Joint Force. Terrorist organizations take advantage of Niger’s lengthy borders and sparsely populated desert regions to move fighters, weapons, and other contraband. Terrorist organizations recruit among border populations, where access to government services are weak and economic opportunity is negligible. In the West, terrorist organizations leveraged a sense of injustice and a desire for protection stemming from historic farmer-herder violence. Niger’s efforts to fight terrorism are challenged by its small defense force, strained coordination between security services, budget shortfalls, and continuing instability in Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, and the Lake Chad Basin. Instability in the bordering nations has led to multiple terrorist incursions into Niger.
Terrorist groups active in Niger included ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), BH, ISIS-WA, and JNIM, which is an amalgamation of the Sahara Branch of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Murabitoun, Ansar al-Dine, and the Macina Liberation Front.
2019 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorist organizations carried out dozens of attacks in Niger during 2019. Two main fronts saw attacks: from BH or ISIS-WA in the Southeast, and from al-Qa’ida (AQ) affiliates and ISIS-GS in the West and the Northwest.
- On January 14, an ambulance carrying civilians was struck by an IED in the Tillabery region, two civilians were killed and six were injured.
- On January 28, suspected members of BH attacked a village in the Diffa region. Four civilians were killed and three wounded. Several vehicles and a large amount of food were stolen from the village.
- On February 17, a female suicide bomber likely affiliated with BH or ISIS-WA detonated her vest at a refugee camp in the Diffa region and four civilians were killed.
- On March 27, suspected members of BH attacked a village in the Diffa region. Fourteen civilians were killed. The attackers utilized two suicide bombers and set fire to several residences. The attackers also kidnapped four villagers during this incursion.
- On April 26, suspected members of BH attacked the Doctors Without Borders compound in the Diffa region. Two civilians were injured in the attack. The attackers burned several buildings and vehicles within the compound.
- On October 9, suspected terrorists attacked a village in the Tahoua region and kidnapped the village chief.
- On May 14, a Nigerien Army Special Forces platoon was ambushed in the Tongo region that resulted in 29 GoN soldiers killed and many more wounded. The terrorist attackers were likely affiliated with ISIS-GS.
- On December 10, attackers struck a Nigerien military base in the Inates region. More than 70 soldiers were killed, and several vehicles and equipment were taken.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: On December 14, 2018, the GoN passed an amendment to its Penal Code that provides either conditional amnesty or a mitigated sentence for terrorists who voluntarily surrender to authorities. Shortly after the passage of the amendment, the GoN adopted on February 14, 2019, a corresponding decree making the Goudoumaria Defection Center an official GoN entity. Together, these two pieces of legislation ratify Niger’s National Program for Managing Defectors from BH and ISIS-WA. Following the ceremony, 125 defectors were reinserted into communities throughout the Diffa region. A smaller second wave of defectors are expected to graduate and be reinserted in January 2020, following their successful completion of vocational training.
Niger’s laws criminalized acts of terrorism consistent with international instruments and best practices under the civil law system. Niger finalized a National Border Security Strategy in 2018 with support from the U.S. Global Security Contingency Fund, an interagency program between the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice, and State. In December 2019, Niger’s National Assembly passed an amendment to last year’s law defining the conditions under which a person associated with BH or ISIS-WA could benefit from support services, allowing increased international cooperation for the Disarmament, Deradicalization, and Reintegration (DDR) of former BH participants.
Counterterrorism investigations are primarily the responsibility of the Central Service for the Fight against Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime (SCLCT-CTO), an interagency body comprising representatives from Niger’s National Police, National Guard, and Gendarmerie. Niger continued to use rudimentary terrorism watchlists that it shares with the security services and at border checkpoints. Since 2017, it moved more than 700 of about 1,400 BH-related detainees fully through its criminal justice system.
Niger is recognized by regional partners as a leader in processing and prosecuting terrorist incidents using dedicated counterterrorism apparatuses such as SCLCT-CTO and the Special Antiterrorism Judicial Pole. SCLCT-CTO benefits from specialized training, equipment, and persistent mentorship provided by DOS’s ATA Program. The GoN also signed an agreement with the U.S. government to establish protocols to improve the use of battlefield evidence and train Nigerien security forces accordingly.
Niger continues to enhance its capacity to detect and deter terrorist incursions at its borders and ports of entry through the expansion of new technologies, critical infrastructure development, and additional specialized security forces assigned along the border, including:
- MIDAS, and coordination with INTERPOL;
- Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire headquarters and communications build out – funded by INL;
- Cellule Mixte de Contrôle des Frontières, the Groupes d’Action Rapides – Surveillance et Intervention, and GIS; and,
- A joint Regional Security Office/Operation Safe Corridor border security training initiative focused on the Burkina Faso border departments of Say, Ayorou, Tera, and Torodi.
Although the GoN recognizes the importance strengthening its borders in the fight against terrorism, it was dependent on international partnerships to fund and implement these initiatives.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Niger is a member of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. There were no significant updates in 2019.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Niger undertook CVE projects supported by international partners and nongovernmental organizations, including CVE radio programming, sensitization caravans, peace committees, and youth symposia. Local leaders in Diffa continued DDR efforts supported by the Ministry of Interior and the High Authority for the Consolidation of the Peace. Local authorities have set up and trained more than 400 village-level peace committees to strengthen communities’ involvement in monitoring and addressing terrorist threats.
International and Regional Cooperation: Niger is a member of and contributes troops to MNJTF and the G5 Sahel. Nigerien officials hosted and attended multiple international meetings on stabilizing Libya and on countering BH or ISIS-WA.
Niger is also a member of ECOWAS and is party to its agreements on counter-trafficking and illicit financing. Nigerien President Issoufou Mahamadou chaired an ECOWAS Summit on Terrorism in Ouagadougou on September 14, 2019, aimed at coordinating efforts among West African nations to combat terrorism. Niger is a member of the TSCTP.