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Rebels in Niger Threaten More Attacks


A rebel spokesman in the West African country of Niger is threatening more attacks unless the government deals with them. He was speaking Tuesday, one day after four policemen were killed and three seriously injured when their vehicle hit a landmine near Agadez, in northern Niger. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

The Niger government blames rebels of the Niger Movement for Justice for the bombing, and a rebel spokesman, El Kontchi Kriska, does not deny it.

"We did it to show them that we are not only in the mountains," he said. "We are also in the villages."

Kriska says the violence will spread until the government acknowledges his group.

Made up of ethnic Tuaregs, the group came to international attention earlier this year after they launched attacks against government and foreign interests in northern Niger.

The desert area is home to some of the world's largest uranium deposits, and the rebels say the government has failed to honor a 1995 peace deal that promised them a bigger share of the region's mineral wealth.

But government spokesman Iboun Gueye says the wealth belongs to the whole country, not just the Tuaregs who are based there.

Analyst Richard Reeves, with London-based Chatham House, says the government, because it is so poor, has little room to maneuver in its dealing with the rebels.

"Niger is the poorest country in the world," he said. "The focus of the country is not on the Tuareg area so that is not where they have been concentrating resources."

Spokesman Iboun Gueye says the government will not negotiate with the rebel group until it lays down its weapons. At least 11 members of the military police have died in rebel attacks in the last two months.

Niger officials have accused what they describe as "rich foreign powers" of supporting the Niger Movement for Justice.

But rebel spokesman Kriska says the group has not received financial, weapon or training help from anyone. He says the rebels use weapons and mines seized from Niger government soldiers and police.

Though Niger is minerally wealthy, the United Nations says it has the worst living conditions in the world.

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