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Nigeriens Search for Landmines in Capital After Explosion Kills One


Niger security forces are searching for land mines, after one exploded late Tuesday in the capital, Niamey. The director of a private radio station died in the explosion and a woman was injured. Naomi Schwarz has more from VOA's West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

Abdou Mahaman Jeannot was driving home late Tuesday night when his Toyota hit a landmine.

Local journalist Khader Idy says the radio-station director was taken to a hospital, but died around midnight.

A woman passenger was also slightly injured. She has been released from the hospital.

Idy says there are never many cars on the road where the landmine exploded. He says it is not even paved. The road is in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Niamey.

But Idy says whoever planted the landmine may have had a strategic reason. He says repairs to the main road required drivers to use that side road as a detour.

Security forces found a second, unexploded landmine nearby. They are continuing to search the area.

Government spokesman Ben Omar Mohammed says all Nigeriens must be vigilant. He says everyone must be on the lookout for mines. He says it is not yet known who planted the mine in Niamey, but he says he suspects a rebel group. He says there is only the Nigerien Movement for Justice, there is no one else it could be.

The rebel group of nomadic Tuaregs is based in the barren north of the country. It launched an uprising against the government last year, saying the region needs more autonomy and a greater share of the country's uranium wealth.

Rebel spokesman Aoutchiki Mohammed Kriska denies any part in the explosion. He says the rebels learned of the explosion with consternation and have never sought to target civilians in Niamey or elsewhere.

He accuses government forces of staging attacks against civilians and blaming his group. He says some suggest it is to turn public opinion against the rebels and justify a security crackdown.

Two attacks last month on larger towns, one in central Niger and one about 500 kilometers east of Niamey were also blamed on the rebel group. It denies responsibility.