NIAMEY (Reuters) - Chad’s government said on Saturday that soldiers accused of at least three rapes in Niger, including that of an 11-year-old girl, have been arrested and will face punishment.
Chad has deployed 1,200 troops in neighbouring Niger as part of an international mission led by France to help combat Islamist militants.
Chad’s foreign ministry said the cases of alleged rape and sexual assault were isolated incidents and should not tarnish the reputation of the country’s army or the mission in Niger.
“The perpetrators have already been arrested and will suffer the necessary sanctions,” it said in a statement.
It did not say how many soldiers had been detained or provide any other details.
On Friday, Niger’s human rights commission called for an independent inquiry into the alleged rapes.
The commission’s preliminary findings, based on testimonies and medical examinations between March 31 and April 1, said that two other women had been raped as well as the 11-year-old girl.
The women, including one who is pregnant, were raped in the presence of their husbands who were held at gunpoint by the soldiers, according to the commission’s report.
“Other rape victims refused to testify due to fear of being stigmatised,” the report said, adding that the commission had spoken with five women who were victims of attempted rape, having managed to flee when armed men entered their homes.
The government of Niger was not immediately available to comment on the matter.
France and other allies praised Chad in February after it deployed troops to the tri-border region between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali to reinforce the 5,100 French soldiers battling militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Besides the alleged rape cases, the Niger commission report said Chadian troops had also been accused of assault and confiscation of private properties in the Tera region in the west of Niger where they are deployed.
Reporting by Boureima Balima; Additional reporting by Madjiasra Nako in N’Djamena; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Christina Fincher and Gareth Jones
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