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Niger Seeks Help in Policing Border with Libya

A photo taken on September 13, 2011 shows an official guesthouse, the Villa du Conseil de l'Entente, in Niamey, where officials of the ousted Libyan regime are allegedly staying.

Niger says it needs help policing more than six million square meters of desert along its border with Libya. Some members of the former government in Tripoli have fled south to Niger, including one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons.

Justice Minister Marou Amadou says it is an explosive situation as members of the ousted Gadhafi government flee fighters backing Libya's interim ruling council.

Amadou says Niger needs aerial surveillance, good intelligence and information. All of that costs a lot of money for a poor and indebted country such as Niger, which perennially suffers from food crises.

Under house arrest

Gadhafi's former security chief and one of his sons, along with at least two former generals, have all crossed the border into Niger on what the government calls humanitarian grounds.

Gadhafi's son Saadi is now under a kind of house arrest in the capital, Niamey.

Too costly

Justice Minister Amadou says the expense of increased patrols along the northern border is holding back the development agenda of Niger's new civilian government. And at the same time, the flow of arms across the Sahel could further destabilize a region where al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists are already active.

Amadou says even before the fighting in Libya, the border situation was difficult for Niger. It is well known that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is operating across the Sahel from Mauritania to Algeria, Niger and Mali. Amadou says security is further complicated by drug trafficking, banditry, and kidnapping in an area that the government of Niger cannot control.