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Terrorist danger to France’s uranium mines in Niger

Earlier this year, the US warned that al Qaeda’s interest in nuclear weapons was still strong and said the risk of nuclear terrorism was serious.

France sees second attack on energy workers in West Africa,  Oil & Gas Journal, Sep 27, 2010 By Eric Watkins,“……………The attack on the Bourbon Alexandre came just 6 days after members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization captured five French nationals in Niger’s uranium fields.The hostages include an expatriate engineer from the mainly state-owned French nuclear firm Areva, his wife, and three employees of Areva subcontractor Satom, working in the firm’s uranium mines around the town of Arlit.

Areva’s three mining sites in Niger provide uranium that fuels a third of French electricity production, and since the attack all expatriate staff have been withdrawn from the area.

“The hostages are employees of the richest and most strategic firms in France. The kidnappers knew this. They know more about us than we know about them,” said Dominique Moisi of the French Institute of International Relations.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility in an audio message broadcast for kidnapping the French nationals who were last seen heading toward the neighboring countries of Mali and Algeria with about 30 captors before vanishing in the vast desert.

“The men were able to attack the mine of Arlit in Niger which is considered one the most important sources of uranium that France has been stealing from for decades,” said the AQIM message that was broadcast over the Al-Jazeera news channel.

The AQIM message said fighters from the group overcame security in the area and kidnapped “five French nuclear experts” and said it would issue its demands to the French government “shortly.” The group also warned the French government from “doing anything stupid.”

In July, AQIM said it executed a 78-year-old French aid worker it had taken hostage three months before, saying the killing was in retaliation for the deaths of six al-Qaeda members in a French-backed military operation against the group.

Following that execution, Areva said it had stepped up security around its sites in Niger, where some 2,500 people are employed, including around 50 French citizens, in the operation of two huge uranium mines.

“We are increasingly limiting movement outside secure areas. We are working to make our staff aware of the risks, and paying more attention to any unusual situations or events,” a spokeswoman told AFP.

However, Areva this week admitted that Niger officials had warned it about an armed group seeking to abduct foreign workers in the desert area where the five hostages were taken last week……

Earlier this year, the US warned that al Qaeda’s interest in nuclear weapons was still strong and said the risk of nuclear terrorism was serious.

“Al-Qaeda has been engaged in the effort to acquire a nuclear weapon for over 15 years, and its interest remains strong today,” said John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s top antiterrorism and homeland security advisor.

– Oil & Gas Journal

September 28, 2010 - Posted by | Niger, politics international, Uranium | , , , , ,

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