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Niger Enlists Nigeria's Help in Capturing Rebel Soldiers - 2002-08-08

The government of Niger is requesting that neighboring Nigeria extradite what Niger says are scores of mutinying soldiers who have escaped across the border in recent days.

The request by Niger came after government troops put down a series of mutinies, launched by soldiers who are demanding better pay and working conditions.

The government said loyalist troops this week recaptured a garrison in the eastern town of N'Guimi, after negotiations broke off between government officials and leaders of the mutiny. On Monday, troops repelled mutineers who attacked three armories in the capital, Niamey.

The revolt began last week in the eastern town of Diffa, which government soldiers retook on Saturday.

Niger government officials say they believe scores of mutineers have escaped across the border into northern Nigeria.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Alliance of Democratic Forces, a coalition of political parties that back the government, has asked for the establishment of a special military court to try the mutineers who have been captured.

President Mamadou Tandja, in an address on Tuesday, vowed to investigate the mutinies and punish those who have taken part. The president also imposed restrictions on journalists, saying any reporter who comments on the unrest is subject to suspension or imprisonment.

The government said loyalist troops on Thursday continued to battle for control of the eastern town of N'Gourti, which reports say is the last remaining stronghold of the mutineers.

It is not clear how many casualties there have been during the unrest of recent days. But reporters say they saw what they described as a large number of wounded soldiers arriving at an army clinic in the capital on Thursday.