French military convoy face protests in Niger


2 killed, dozens injured in clashes with security forces, sources say.

KIGALI, Rwanda

A French military convoy heading to Mali on Saturday faced protests in Niger after days of being blocked by protesters in Burkina Faso, according to sources.

Protests broke out late Friday in the western Niger town of Tera in the Tillaberi region, prompting clashes between the defense and security forces and demonstrators opposed to the passage of the French Barkhane force convoy from Burkina Faso to Gao in Mali, local media reported.

After a turbulent night, clashes continued Saturday, leaving two people killed and a dozen others wounded, including serious cases, in clashes with security forces trying to clear the way, the Actuniger newspaper said, citing local sources.

Demonstrators, mostly youth chanting, “We don’t want you” and “Go home” erected barricades on the main city road, prompting police to fire teargas to disperse the crowd.

There has not been any official communication on the matter.

But French army spokesman Pascal Ianni told AFP that when the convoy wanted to continue to Niger’s capital Niamey, they were stopped by about 1,000 demonstrators.

Noting that a violent group among them tried to take control of trucks, Ianni said two civilian drivers in the convoy were injured by stones and civilian trucks were damaged.

The French media report said three people were killed and 18 wounded, including four who had to be evacuated for treatment in Niamey, 200 kilometers (120 miles) away.

Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum on Friday justified the presence of foreign forces, including French soldiers in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel.

After entering Burkina Faso last week, demonstrators in Kaya, north central Burkina Faso, blocked the convoy.

Demonstrators reportedly suspected members of the French anti-terrorist force of having weapons and motorcycles in their containers that are used to supply terrorists.

But Burkinabe Foreign Minister Alpha Barry allayed suspicions of France supporting terrorists in the country on Wednesday and said that there was nothing irregular about the convoy passing through Burkina Faso.

It arrived in the Ivory Coast last week and departed Burkina Faso on Friday only to confront more protests in Niger.

Similar “anti-French feelings” have previously been demonstrated in Mali and Chad.