U.S State Department updates Niger Travel Warning
“The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Niger. U.S. citizens in Niger, and those considering travel to Niger, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing threats to safety and security. On June 13, 2013, the Department of State approved authorized departure for family members of Embassy personnel because of extensive problems with the electrical power grid in Niger and associated difficulties guaranteeing a potable water supply for Embassy personnel and their family dependents. Since that time, circumstances have improved and, as of July 12, the U.S. Embassy in Niger is no longer on authorized departure status. This replaces the Travel Warning for Niger dated July 15, 2013, to update information about the current security situation.
The Government of Niger continues to maintain security checkpoints in Niamey to address security concerns. The Embassy recommends that citizens traveling in Niger remain especially careful around security checkpoints, as security forces continue to be on a heightened state of alert. Do not drive away from, or through, a checkpoint until you are given clear permission to do so. If you are unsure of what to do, please request verbal confirmation before proceeding.
On June 1, 2013 prisoners in Niamey’s main prison staged a prison break. Of the 32 prisoners who successfully escaped, several are suspected to have ties to terrorist organizations. The majority of the escapees remain at large.
On May 23, 2013, terrorists using suicide car bombs, explosive vests and small arms attacked a Nigerien military compound in Agadez and a uranium mining facility operated by a French company in Arlit.
Terrorist groups in the past have called for and executed attacks against countries that supported the intervention against terrorist groups in northern Mali, including Niger. Because of terrorist and kidnapping threats, the Embassy Travel Policy requires armed Nigerien security escorts for travel north of the latitude of Niamey and east of Zinder for official U.S. government employees. The areas bordering Mali and Libya, and northern Niger continue to be of serious concern. Additionally, Nigerian operations to counter Boko Haram in northern Nigeria have resulted in security degradation along the Niger-Nigeria border, primarily east of Zinder. The border is porous, and there are frequent reports of suspected terrorists and smugglers crossing into Niger. The Government of Niger increased its security forces at border crossings, but the situation remains tenuous, and travel to most border areas is not advised. The U.S. Embassy in Niamey will continue to monitor this situation closely and update U.S. citizens via ‘Security Messages for U.S. Citizens.’ These security messages are posted on U.S. Embassy Niamey’s website.
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a group designated as a terrorist organization by the Department of State since 2002, continues its threats to kidnap Westerners in Niger, including U.S. citizens, and has kidnapped Europeans in the region. On January 7, 2011, two French nationals were kidnapped in the capital city of Niamey. They were found dead less than 24 hours later following a rescue attempt by French and Nigerien military forces. In September 2010, seven people, including five French citizens, a Togolese, and a Malagasy were kidnapped by AQIM from the northern mining town of Arlit. The last four were released in November 2013. Although there have been no kidnappings of Westerners in Niger since January 2011, the Department of State Worldwide Caution dated September 25, 2013 reminds U.S. citizens to maintain a high-level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness when traveling in the region.
Crime in Niger is also a concern. Residential crime in Niamey for unguarded houses is commonplace in certain areas. This is easily mitigated by having 24/7 residential guards. Most crime in Niamey is non-violent in the form of pick-pocketing or purse-snatching; however, car-jackings and armed robbery can occur. Outside Niamey, the potential for violent crimes increases significantly. Armed bandits target travelers on roads in the northern parts of the country. Armed escorts are required for all Embassy travel north of Niamey and east of Zinder. For U.S. government personnel, all travel outside Niamey must be during daylight hours. We recommend U.S. citizens follow a similar procedure, i.e., travel no earlier than after sunrise and no later than one hour prior to sunset.
As a result of safety and security concerns, some organizations, including foreign companies, NGOs, and private aid organizations, temporarily suspended operations in Niger or withdrew some family members and/or staff.
Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. government policy not to make concessions to kidnappers.
Source: Niger Travel Warning