The rebel group Niger Movement for Justice says it launched two attacks late Thursday in the uranium-rich Agadez region, sparking skirmishes with government forces that ended in the killing of two civilians. A rebel spokesman says the group will continue attacking until the Niger government takes its demands seriously. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Dakar.
Rebel spokesman El Kontchi Kriska says the rebels, from the Tuareg nomadic tribe, attacked two electricity companies supplying uranium mines.
He says the rebels withdrew when the government, in retaliation, killed two civilians.
"We are very sorry and ashamed for that, but we know that the Niger army is able to do it [kill civilians]. The army does not start to kill civilians today or yesterday. We have proof they do it many times," he said.
Government officials have not confirmed the deaths.
The group has waged a low-intensity war against the Niger government since earlier this year, demanding a bigger share of the region's mineral wealth.
The government has refused to recognize or negotiate with the group.
Kriska says the rebels will continue the attacks until the government admits the group and its demands are legitimate.
"We are now in the war period," he added. "We are determined to attack government positions until we get negotiations, until the government of Niger calls us and says 'yes you are right, this was not respected before and we want you to give us another chance.' The government says we are not able to make anything, we are bandits, traffickers. When we do these attacks, everybody will understand we know what we want."
To date, the government has demanded the Tuaregs lay down their weapons.
This group has taken responsibility for kidnapping government soldiers, and has been accused of laying mines in nearby areas.
Despite the country's mineral wealth, the United Nations has ranked Niger's living conditions as the worst in the world for the past two years.