Niger detains activists in case of airstrike

The head of a leading campaign group in Niger has been arrested in a case involving an army airstrike on suspected jihadists in the south of the country, prosecutors said.

Abdoulaye Seydou, leader of an activist group called M62, appeared before the Niamey Criminal Court on Monday, prosecutor Chaibou Moussa said on television that evening.

He was taken into preventive detention, Moussa said.

M62 and other civic groups have accused defense and security forces of massacring civilians when they launched helicopter attacks on an illegal gold mine last October, saying the suspected killers of two police officers were hiding there.

The government has acknowledged airstrikes were carried out after two police officers were killed in Tamou, near the Burkina Faso border.

Seven people were said to have been killed and 24 injured in the raids, but political opposition and civic groups said the death toll was much higher.

Moussa said that after the “terrorist” attack on the police station and the army’s resistance, “unidentified people” went into the gold mine “to burn down shops and warehouses used as apartments”.

Citing a police investigation, Moussa said the fires were set to create fake evidence to incriminate the army and “back up claims that there were massacres”.

Senior M62 official Falmata Taya admitted members of the movement had traveled to Tamou two days after the airstrikes, but only “to check the facts on the ground”.

Niger, the poorest country in the world according to the UN Human Development Index, is fighting jihadist insurgencies in the south-west and south-east of the country.

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