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Niger Looks Toward January Elections After Kidnappings

Image taken from video and provided by U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group shows the first images of a group of foreign hostages working for a French energy company who were seized in Niger two weeks ago by an al-Qaida offshoot, according to the group that

Insecurity brought on by al-Qaida kidnappings in Niger is threatening to compromise the country's elections, set for January, and its return to civilian rule.

Elections scheduled for January are meant to return Niger to democratic rule following this year's military coup, but recent al-Qaida terrorist acts have raised security concerns in certain regions of the country.

In September, the Algerian based al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb seized five French nationals, one Madagascan and one Togolese from a large French uranium mine in Niger. France sent troops to Niger to help locate the hostages and help secure their release.

But a member of the Party for Democracy and Socialism for Niger, Alat Mgaskia, says the most recent kidnapping will not affect the country's campaigning and elections.

Mgaskia admits terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida recently conducted a kidnapping in the north, but he insists this was an isolated incident.

University Abdou Moumouni Political Science Professor Mahaman Tidjani Alou says the arrival of al-Qaida as well as French troops means Niger no longer has sovereignty. He says it is as if the country is now simply part of a larger territory.

Niger Looks Toward January Elections After Kidnappings
Niger Looks Toward January Elections After Kidnappings

Mgaskia said the government of Niger warns its civilians what regions are safe and which areas pose a threat to safety.

He says for this reason, the elections will not be endangered by al-Qaida terrorists possibly working in the country.

Political instability has marked the year for Niger since President Mamadou Tandja was ousted by a coup in February. He was arrested and has been detained in a home on the presidential compound in Niger's capital, Niamey, since then.

Tandja was deposed after pushing through a new constitution for Niger that abolished term limits and increased the president's power. When Niger's parliament and constitutional court said the vote was illegal, he dissolved both bodies and ruled by decree.

In November, voters in Niger endorsed a new constitution that reverses Tandja's changes and clears the way for the elections scheduled for January. The military has set an April 6 deadline to fulfill its promise to return Niger to civilian rule within a year of taking power.