Sunday, August 27, 2006

DARFUR/CHAD/MDJT rebels: Armed assailants attack convoy in northern Niger

NIAMEY, Aug 11 (Reuters) - hat tip Coalition for Darfur:

One soldier was killed and another abducted in northern Niger when armed men attacked and robbed a goods convoy being escorted by the army near the desert town of Agadez, military sources said on Friday.

The region around the ancient trading town, some 1,700 km (1,000 miles) north of the capital Niamey, was the centre of an uprising by Tuareg nomads in the 1990s and remains notorious for banditry and smuggling.

Local radio, however, reported the assailants were rebels from neighbouring Chad. Military sources declined to speculate.

"We have begun a pursuit and we prefer to remain cautious about the nationality of the attackers," said one army source, who asked not to be identified.

The attackers seized five vehicles containing cigarettes bound for Libya, the main market for tobacco in the region.

The lawless expanse of northern Niger -- which borders Chad, Libya and Algeria -- has also become a haven in recent years for Algerian rebels.

N'Djamena signed a peace deal last year with the Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad (MDJT) rebel movement to end its uprising in northern Chad, which had spilled over the border into Niger.

Other rebel groups dedicated to toppling Chadian President Idriss Deby continue to operate in the country's east, using the Sudanese region of Darfur as an operating base.

These rebel groups launched a foiled assault on N'Djamena in April, which killed hundreds of people just weeks before polls which handed Deby a new five-year term.