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Niger Halts Expulsion Order of Arab Nomads Back to Chad

Niger's government says it will cancel an order to deport thousands of Arab nomads back to neighboring Chad.

Earlier this week, Niger government officials said the country would expel its Mahamid Arab population, accusing them of posing a security threat.

But in a Friday afternoon Cabinet meeting, the government dropped its deportation plans.

Government spokesman Mohammad Ben Omar says the government will look into relocating the Mahamid Arabs within Niger.

Many Mahamid Arabs arrived in country's east during the 1980s, fleeing drought and warfare in neighboring Chad.

Niamey-based journalist Ousmane Toudou says Arabs arrived with herds of camels in an area where black African subsistence farmers try to grow crops. He says the two groups have frequently clashed over land and water rights in the drought-striken region.

Officials in Niamey did not explain why the government abandoned its original deportation plans.

The national government says there are just 3,000 Mahamid Arabs in Niger. Community leaders and local officials have estimated the number to be as high as 150,000.

Some analysts had voiced concern that a major influx of displaced people into Chad would destabilize a country in the midst of fighting off a rebel insurgency.