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Deaths during the passage of a Barkhane convoy: “probably” French shots according to Niamey

The investigations carried out by Niger and France did not reveal who killed three demonstrators as a convoy of the Barkhane force passed at the end of 2021, announced Niamey, who nevertheless believes that the shots “probably” came from soldiers. French.

The demonstration against the passage of this convoy was one of the rare sources of tension between Paris and Niamey, which maintain close relations, unlike those, currently extremely tense, between France and Mali. At the end of November 2021, a military convoy from Barkhane, the French army’s operation in the Sahelo-Saharan strip, left Abidjan to join Gao in Mali. He was first blocked and stoned by protesters in Kaya, in central Burkina Faso. He had resumed his journey before being again interrupted by angry demonstrators in Téra, in western Niger. Three of them had been killed, in shots attributed by the Nigerien government to its forces or to French forces.

In December 2021, Niger’s President, Mohamed Bazoum, “ordered an investigation” by Niger into the clashes, and “required the French authorities” to do the same.

President Mohamed Bazoum evokes “lethal means used by the French army”

In an interview with French newspapers The cross and L’Obs and published on May 18, President Mohamed Bazoum declared that he was not satisfied with the French investigation which “consisted in saying that the French army had issued warnings with lethal weapons [et] concluded that his soldiers had not killed”. However, according to the Nigerien Head of State, “it was probably the lethal means used by the French army, for the purpose of warning, which had the effect of reaching a certain number of demonstrators and killing three of them , children”.

“If France has a share of responsibility, Niger too”

“But if France has a share of responsibility, so does Niger,” he adds. “We had committed forces to maintain order and they were not effective. The French had to extricate themselves, they had to use lethal means which could have caused death”.

In the same interview, Mohamed Bazoum declared himself in favor of a “numerous” deployment in Niger of French and European forces, forced to leave Mali, to fight against the armed jihadists who have been striking in the Sahel for more than ten years.

In the case of the Barkhane convoy, the investigation conducted by the Nigerien gendarmerie “brought to light serious shortcomings in the system of maintaining order planned to manage this situation” by Niger, which “brought the army to use force to extricate itself from the pressure of the demonstrators”, underlines the press release from Niger.

“The investigation carried out by the French army, for its part, while acknowledging the convoy’s use of force to extricate itself from the crowd which threatened it, concludes that the facts took place under regulatory conditions by means of warning shots,” he adds. The demonstration, “which was far from being a spontaneous event”, “involved several people [dont] most were young students,” according to the ministry.

Following these incidents, the Nigerien president dismissed his Interior Minister, Alkache Alhada, as well as the High Commander of the National Gendarmerie, General Salifou Wakasso.

The two countries will compensate the victims or their families, announced the Nigerien Ministry of the Interior by publishing the results of these investigations on the evening of May 17, recalling that 17 civilians, seven Nigerien gendarmes and seven French soldiers had also been injured. Paris and Niamey “welcome their collaboration in this particularly sensitive issue [et] are delighted with the solution obtained”, saluting “the memory of the deceased”, adds the press release from the ministry.

Niger has to deal with regular and deadly attacks from jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh in the Sahel in the west, and those from Boko Haram and Daesh in West Africa (Iswap) in the southeast. .

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