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Old 12-16-2008   #1
Rex Brynen
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Default Niger Rebels Say They Kidnapped U.N. Envoy

Moderator at work

I have merged two threads: Tuareg Insurgency in Northern Niger (2007-2009) and Niger Rebels Say They Kidnapped UN Envoy.

Some of the posts on NIger are found in a parallel thread on Mali:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=9254


Virtually everyone who has worked foreign affairs in defence issues in Ottawa knows Bob—he was/is an outstanding diplomat (including Canadian ambassador to the UNSC) and senior official at National Defence. I hope he's OK, and released quickly.

As Allan Thompson reports in his excellent profile, "The only consolation, one friend said last night, is that if anyone could talk himself out of a tight spot, it would be Fowler."


Niger Rebels Say They Kidnapped U.N. Envoy

By LYDIA POLGREEN
Published: December 16, 2008

Quote:
DAKAR, Senegal — A splinter faction of an insurgent group of nomadic tribesmen fighting in northern Niger claimed on Tuesday that it had abducted a Canadian diplomat serving as the United Nations envoy to the country.

The diplomat, Robert Fowler, was first reported missing on Monday, according to the United Nations, when the vehicle in which he was traveling was found abandoned on the outskirts of Niger’s capital, Niamey. Mr. Fowler was with his aide, Louis Guay, and their driver, the United Nations said. The car’s engine was still running, and there were no signs of a struggle, officials said.
Also: Confusion over missing envoy, Tororonto Star, 16 December 2008.

Robert Fowler no stranger to conflict zones, Toronto Star, 16 December 2008.

Unrest in the Sahara, al-Jazeera English (useful background).

Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-10-2011 at 03:29 PM. Reason: Add Mod's Note
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Old 12-17-2008   #2
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Default Few clues surrounding diplomats’ disappearance

Few clues surrounding diplomats’ disappearance in Niger
Steven Edwards, Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Quote:
UNITED NATIONS -- Suspects holding veteran Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler and his aide were feared Tuesday to be scanning world reports about the pair to assess how "valuable" they might be.

One insider speculated the kidnappers -- depending on their identity and their goals -- may feel they have hit a "jackpot" given some of the publicly available accounts of Fowler's career.

Fowler is a former deputy minister in the Defence Department and was Canada's longest serving ambassador to the UN.
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Old 12-24-2008   #3
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UN working to find Niger envoy

BBC News, 24 December 2008

Quote:
The UN says it is working with Canada, as well as Niger and others in West Africa to help secure the release of a kidnapped UN special envoy to Niger.

A spokeswoman said the UN was pursuing all appropriate channels to secure the safe return of former Canadian ambassador to the UN, Robert Fowler.

The UN said he went missing in Niger on 15 December while on official business.
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Old 01-24-2009   #4
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Default Fowler update

Sadly, still no news on Bob.

Abducted without a trace

GEOFFREY YORK
Globe and Mail Update
January 24, 2009 at 1:04 AM EST

Quote:
Mr. Fowler, 64, was one of Ottawa's most powerful bureaucrats before his retirement. He had served as an ambassador to the United Nations, a deputy minister of defence, a top adviser to a string of prime ministers and a veteran of war zones from Rwanda to Darfur. Yet this time he may have ventured a step too far.

The tale of the vanished Canadians has all the elements of a Graham Greene thriller: the secretive diplomats who concealed their true mission, their mysterious disappearance in an obscure African country, the intricate games of the rebels and the government and the foreign investigators who are struggling to understand it all.

But if this is a Graham Greene mystery, it has a 21st-century twist: The Islamic radicals with ties to al-Qaeda who investigators believe may now be holding the diplomats. The radicals have emerged as a growing power in North Africa and now seem to be expanding into countries such as Mali and Niger — a vast new territory for their ambitions.
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Old 02-09-2009   #5
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Default Canadian diplomats likely held by al-Qa'ida/AQIM

Video suggests diplomats in clutches of al-Qaeda

GEOFFREY YORK
From Monday's Globe and Mail
February 9, 2009 at 4:13 AM EST

Quote:
JOHANNESBURG — One of the kidnapped Canadians seems exhausted. The other is still clutching his briefcase. Standing behind them are armed men, posing for the camera - the trademark of the al-Qaeda terrorist group.

This is the latest description of a videotape that apparently shows the disturbing fate of Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, the two Canadian diplomats who were kidnapped in December in the West African nation of Niger.

...

The video adds further evidence to the theory of al-Qaeda involvement in the kidnapping. The leading theory among the investigators - including Canadian, American and United Nations security specialists - is that the two Canadian diplomats are being held by a cell of al-Qaeda's branch in North Africa, which is already suspected of masterminding a series of similar kidnappings of Western tourists in Mali, Algeria and Tunisia.
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Old 02-20-2009   #6
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Default AQIM states it is holding Fowler, other hostages

Al-Qaida N. Africa claims 6 hostages

UPI, Published: Feb. 19, 2009 at 1:03 PM

Quote:
NIAMEY, Niger, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Al-Qaida's North Africa branch claims it is holding hostage a Canadian U.N. peace envoy, his aide and four tourists who were kidnapped in the Sahara.

A spokesman for al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, an Algerian group that claims to have joined Osama bin Laden's terror network in 2006 but some say has simply adopted the name, threatened "to deal with the six kidnapped according to Islamic Shariah law," an audio recording played on pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera said.
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Old 09-08-2009   #7
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Default Fowler update

I never did update this thread.

Bob Fowler was, happily, freed in June. As has subsequently been reported in the press, the JTF2 guys were considering a rescue operation if they had received a more accurate fix on AQIM's whereabouts.

In his most recent comments to the CBC, Bob has suggested that his itinerary was leaked to AQIM by a source within the government of Niger or the UN.
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Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-09-2009 at 12:14 PM. Reason: leaded changed to leaked
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Old 10-11-2009   #8
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Default al-Qa'ida operatives free to win release of Canadian

The secret Mali deal to release two Canadians

Four al-Qaeda members were freed from prison in exchange for diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay

Geoffrey York
Bamako, Mali — From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 1:45PM EDT
Last updated on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 8:45PM EDT

Quote:
Four terrorists, including a bomb-maker, were released from prison in the African nation of Mali in exchange for the freedom this year of Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, high-ranking government sources in Mali have confirmed.

The released prisoners were members of al-Qaeda’s increasingly powerful branch in the Sahara region of northern and western Africa. Two of them had been arrested in the northern Mali desert town of Gao last year after an accidental explosion while they were manufacturing a bomb, the sources say.
It was widely suspected that there was much more to the release than was initially reported. As you'll see from the full report, the UK government was said to be quite unhappy with Canada's actions in this case (as they were also trying to secure the release of a hostage), as were the Algerians (the primary target of AQIM attacks).
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Old 10-11-2009   #9
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Default Murky issue partly in the "daylight"

Rex,

Thanks for the update and having read the article cited I am sure several governments were disappointed. The decision by Mali was influenced by a desire to keep Canada "sweet". I wonder how they will explain this story, or better just ignore it?

I'd missed that one prisoner's release sought was Abu Qutada, who is in a UK jail after breaching his immigration bail. Were the kidnappers following a direction from AQ "core" or from a more local AQIM?

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Old 10-12-2009   #10
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Default and there's more...

Globe Special Investigation
The shadowy negotiator who freed Fowler and Guay

He’s Mali’s go-to man for haggling with terrorists and he brokered the deal that set two Canadians free

Geoffrey York
Bamako, Mali — From Monday's Globe and Mail
Published on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009 10:22PM EDT
Last updated on Monday, Oct. 12, 2009 8:25AM EDT

Quote:
When the kidnappers freed Robert Fowler and Louis Guay after a gruelling 130 days of captivity this spring, Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his gratitude to a long list of people: presidents, diplomats, allies, even the United Nations.

But he omitted any mention of the most important man of all: the mysterious negotiator from the wilds of the Sahara who brokered the deal that bought the freedom of the Canadian hostages from their al-Qaeda abductors.

It was a crucial omission, and it revealed the distrust and controversy that still swirls around the shadowy negotiator. Did he walk away with some of the money himself? Is he playing both sides? Is he a little too close to the terrorists with whom he bargains?

The questions are unanswered. But every insider admits that the negotiator, Baba Ould Sheik, was the essential man for the job. Since his first hostage deal in 2003, he has been the region's go-to man, the wheeler-dealer with the connections and toughness to haggle with heavily armed terrorists in the sand dunes of the Sahara.

“ I don't regret that I fought for Fowler's liberation, but I'm not happy with Canada. ”
— Baba Ould Sheik

Until now, he has never spoken publicly of his pivotal role in freeing Mr. Fowler and Mr. Guay. He is a man who has always preferred the shadows. But now, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, he describes how he brokered the deal, how he communicated with to the terrorists, how he shared his carpet in the desert with Mr. Fowler, and how he drove through a sandstorm to get the Canadians back to safety.

He also says that he was never thanked by Canada for his three months of work to free the Canadians, and was never compensated for his substantial expenses. Yet he acknowledges that even his own colleagues assume that he was paid – and are accusing him of failing to share the money.

...
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Old 12-22-2009   #11
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Default Tuareg Insurgency in Northern Niger (2007-2009)

MICROCON, 21 Dec 09: Circumstantial Alliances and Loose Loyalties in Rebellion Making: The Case of Tuareg Insurgency in Northern Niger (2007-2009)
Quote:
The goal of this paper is to specify the nature of the Mouvement des Nigériens pour la Justice (MNJ) as a non-state armed organisation and to make sense of its shaky existence since its inception, almost three years ago, with a particular focus on the period that made the MNJ a serious political and military opponent to the government. Our argument is that circumstantial alliances and percolation of grievances provoked by local micro-political dynamics and long-standing disenfranchisement of some sections of the Tuareg youth permitted the movement to take off as a credible rebel group. Ultimately, we want to verify if existing analytical tools made available by the theoretical literature on non-state armed groups are adequate to make sense of the MNJ’s organisational trajectory, particularly considering Jeremy Weinstein’s seminal book “Inside Rebellion” (Weinstein, 2006). By putting too much emphasis on “initial conditions”, Weinstein’s model, we argue, fails to properly acknowledge the micro-social dynamics that shape armed groups and their erratic trajectory, and we stress the need to investigate what armed organizations are sociologically made of rather than bluntly postulating their existence.
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Old 11-10-2011   #12
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Default Spillover from Libya in the Niger desert

Cross refer for some background on today's post to the thread 'Gaddafi's sub-Saharan mercenaries':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=12565

The BBC News reports:
Quote:
Fighters of the ousted Libyan regime, ethnic Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants operate in the remote region. Some Tuaregs fought on the side of the late Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi during this year's conflict in Libya.,,and "guided by Malian Tuaregs".
Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15654572
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Old 03-26-2012   #13
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Default Niger's complicated hunger crisis

As attention is focussed on Mali along comes the BBC with this report:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17506421

For once governance may not be a problem:
Quote:
Niger has suddenly emerged, after a coup in 2010, as a welcome and unexpected exception in a rough neighbourhood. The new, democratic government was quick to detect the first signs that this year's food crisis would be particularly severe.
I am always wary of reading this:
Quote:
it is shocking to note the complete absence of men
Death, emigration to work and more can account for this. So can the presence of the media and having gone to fight - shades of Somalia too.

Niger has its own Tuareg's (as reported in previous Posts).
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Old 03-26-2012   #14
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Many of their men are in Nigeria, seeking better opportunities and sending money back home. I can attest to that - my gate man and my brother's former gate man are both from Niger.
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Old 04-07-2012   #15
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Default Tuaregs treated differently

A BBC report a month old which I missed, which covers several factors, but this is different:
Quote:
....former rebels have been integrated into government - the new prime minister appointed in April 2011 is a Tuareg, as are most of the local officials in Agadez.
Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17192212
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Old 08-14-2013   #16
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Default Balancing domestic and security

A backgrounder 'Letter from Niamey' by Andrew Lebovich, who was in country in May 2013, which starts with:
Quote:
The shifting focus on Niger as a Western partner for counter-terrorism should not blind the European Union, France, and the United States to the West African nation's governance and reform deficits. Internal militant unrest, trafficking and other criminal enterprises, and weak, corrupt rule all threaten Niger’s tenuous stability.
He ends:
Quote:
In Mali, systemic domestic problems from government corruption to intercommunal rivalries among the military and the ranks of armed rebels fractured its political structure and grievously weakened the state more than terrorist attacks could. In Niger, it appears that similar warning signs are being ignored. For the United States, France, and other European powers, stabilizing Niger’s government and maintaining its security cooperation trumps everything else. Although the onus is on Niger’s government to reform itself, outside powers must make sure such steps are implemented as promised. Western governments set on hunting down Islamist militants cannot ignore impending threats to Niger’s stability that fall outside their narrow focus on counterterrorism.
Link:http://www.foreignaffairs.com/featur...iger?page=show
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Old 04-13-2017   #17
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Default An update

The last post was in August 2013 and events around Niger have changed somewhat, notably in Nigeria. So this commentary from RUSI is welcome; which starts with:
Quote:
The country faces a problematic security environment and must urgently address social, economic and governance challenges. Niger sits at the crossroads of a huge area where state actors have limited control. The region is home to a toxic blend of insurgencies, ethnic militias, drug traffickers, smugglers and violent extremist groups. The upper Sahel is nevertheless far from being ungoverned. There are complex layers of political economic and geopolitical forces at play: socio-ethnic kinship; migration; and informal trade in particular create powerful cross-border links.
Link:https://rusi.org/commentary/niger-an...xtremism-sahel



The map is from:By OCHA, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32649461
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