US President Barack Obama says at least 100 American military personnel have been dispatched to Niger to support French troops battling fighters in neighboring Mali. “This deployment will provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region. The total number of U.S. military personnel deployed to Niger is approximately 100,” said Obama on Friday. Reports say that the US troops will also set up a drone base in the African country.
This comes after the Nigerien Defense Ministry announced his country's readiness to host an airbase for American drones to help the United States' spying operations in Africa including the West African country of Mali.“If Niger has an opportunity to receive support in the shape of aircraft or drones to monitor suspicious movements from Mali, we will not turn our nose up at it,” Defense Minister Karidjo Mahamadou said on January 30. Niger is a mostly desert country on the eastern border of Mali, where France has launched a war on January 11 under the pretext of halting the advance of fighters who control the north of the country. Some political analysts believe that Mali’s abundant natural resources, including gold and uranium reserves, could be one of the reasons behind the French war. On February 1, Amnesty International condemned “serious human rights breaches” including the killing of children in the French war in Mali. The rights organization said there was “evidence that at least five civilians, including three children, were killed in an airstrike” carried out by French forces against the local fighters. MAM/JR