NIAMEY May 25 Islamist militants who carried
out simultaneous suicide attacks on an army base and a French
uranium mine in northern Niger two days ago came from southern
Libya, Niger's president said on Saturday.
President Mahamadou Issoufou said the raids showed Libya was
a source of regional instability, months after France launched
an air-and-ground assault on northern Mali, which Paris warned
had become a launchpad for attacks by al Qaeda-linked groups.
The suicide attacks on Thursday killed 24 soldiers and one
civilian and damaged machinery at Areva's Somair mine
in the town of Arlit, a supplier of uranium to France's nuclear
power programme. Militants said the raids were in retaliation
for Niger's role in the French-led war on Islamists in Mali.
French forces have killed hundreds of Islamist gunmen in
Mali while those who escaped the raids have scattered across the
desert in the north of the country and a vast region full of
"According to the information we have, the attackers came
from southern Libya," Issoufou said of the dawn attacks in Niger
which raised fears that Mali's conflict could spread to
neighbouring West African states.
"I know the Libyan authorities are trying hard. But Libya
continues to be a source of instability," the president said.
He did not give details on who the gunmen were, but Mokhtar
Belmokhtar, a one-eyed veteran of al Qaeda's North African
operations, said that his Mulathameen brigade organised the
raids with the MUJWA militant group.
Thousands of gunmen and tonnes of weapons and ammunition
flowed south, mainly to Mali, after the fall of Libya's former
leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
A mix of Islamist and separatist rebels then seized control
of the north of Mali before the French operation launched in
January dislodged them from the towns they controlled.
Niger has for weeks warned that Libya was the next potential
safe haven for militants.