Overview: Niger faces terrorist threats on each of its seven borders. Terrorist organizations take advantage of Niger’s extensive borders and sparsely populated desert regions to attack and recruit among populations where access to government services is limited and economic opportunity is negligible. Niger’s efforts to fight terrorism are constrained by budget shortfalls and continuing instability in Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, and the Lake Chad Basin.
Terrorist groups active in Niger included ISIS in the Greater Sahara, Boko Haram, ISIS-WA, and JNIM. Niger is the only country in the world with ISIS-affiliate presence on three borders.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorist organizations carried out dozens of attacks in Niger during 2020. Two main fronts saw attacks from Boko Haram or ISIS-WA in the Southeast and from JNIM and the ISIS-GS in the West and the Northwest.
The following are some of the major terrorist incidents in 2020:
- On January 9, suspected members of ISIS-GS attacked a Nigerien military base in Chinagodrar, killing 89 members of the Nigerien military.
- On May 10, suspected members of ISIS-GS attacked two villages in the Tillabéri Region killing approximately 20 villagers and stealing cattle.
- On August 9, suspected members of ISIS-GS murdered six French humanitarian workers and two Nigeriens at the Kouré Giraffe Reserve south of Niamey. The attack was claimed by ISIS-associated media in its weekly newsletter.
- On December 4, suspected JNIM members swarmed a park ranger checkpoint in La Tapoa, at the entrance of the Parc W area, killing two park rangers, injuring three, and kidnapping two. Two vehicles were stolen, and an ammunition supply dump was looted.
- On December 13, suspected Boko Haram members attacked the village of Toumour in eastern Diffa Region, killed 30 villagers, and destroyed an estimated 800 homes and several vehicles.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2018 the Government of Niger passed an amendment to its penal code providing either conditional amnesty or mitigated sentences for voluntary defectors from violent extremist organizations. Following rapidly evolving threats in the Liptako-Gourma region during 2020, key officials in the Ministries of the Interior and Justice are amending the National Framework to encompass the management of defectors from violent extremist organizations in any of Niger’s affected zones. Once ratified, the National Framework will provide uniform defector screening to determine eligibility for rehabilitation, development of regional rehabilitation centers, and establishment of a National Disengagement, Disassociation, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration Steering Committee.
Nigerien law enforcement and security services were actively engaged in detecting, deterring, and preventing acts of terrorism. Counterterrorism investigations are the responsibility of the Central Service for the Fight Against Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime, an interagency body composed of 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.
Niger reinforced its capacities to investigate and adjudicate terrorism-related cases and to imprison terrorists, consistent with rule-of-law principles and international human rights law. 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; however, it remains dependent on international partners to fund and implement border security initiatives.
In late October a U.S. citizen was kidnapped near Birni-N’Konni along the Nigerian border. A Compagnie Mobile de Contrôle des Frontières border patrol unit was the first unit to respond and secure a helicopter landing zone for a U.S. investigation team as well as to provide introductions, translation, transportation, and security directly contributing to the successful recovery of a hostage.
Niger has expanded its border screening capabilities by implementing MIDAS and expanding the PISCES platform. MIDAS and PISCES are linked to INTERPOL’s I-24/7 network sharing relevant traveler information with partner nations.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Niger is a member of GIABA. There are no significant updates from 2019.
Countering Violent Extremism: Niger launched a national CVE strategy in October, which strengthened the CVE capacity of the National Center for Strategic and Security Studies and supported CVE activities through small grants.
International and Regional Cooperation: Niger is a member of the G-5 Sahel and the Sahel Alliance and manages the G-5 Sahel Joint Forces’ Central Sector Command in Niamey. It also hosts a battalion in the Eastern Sector in Madama. In February, Niger hosted the one-year presidency of the G-5 Sahel. Niger contributes troops to the Lake Chad Basin Multinational Joint Task Force and MINUSMA.
Niger is a member of ECOWAS and is party to its agreements on countertrafficking and illicit financing. Niger is a member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) and the Sahel Judicial Platform.