Two Chinese nationals were kidnapped by unidentified armed men in the western region of Tillaberi, AFP reports from the Niger capital Niamey. The governor, Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella, said the two were kidnapped by gunmen during the night. However, the identity of the two Chinese and the kidnappers is unknown. The governor also said that the militants had previously threatened the Chinese, who had a permit to mine gold, to leave the area immediately, but were refused.
AFP reported that China has strengthened its economic cooperation with Niger this year. In particular, cooperation in the exploration of uranium, gold and oil in the north, west and south. The anti-government armed groups, the Mouvement des Nigeriens pour la Justice (MNJ) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), frequent the northern region bordering Mali and Burkina Faso.
On July 6, 2007, the head of a Chinese company’s construction site in Niger was kidnapped by AQIM militants. AFP reported that the militant group accused China of selling arms to the government against them. The kidnapped Chinese company’s site manager was working for the China National Nuclear Construction Corporation (CNNC) on a uranium mine in Agadez in the north.
On September 16, 2010, the French nuclear group Areva said seven of its employees had been kidnapped in Niger. 2018 saw the kidnapping of a German working for an NGO in the western region of Tillaberi, before he was taken to the north, not far from the border with Mali. But he still does not know his whereabouts.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the North African branch of al-Qaeda, is also active in the region, having killed the 78-year-old French hostage Germano in late July 2010 in retaliation for an earlier military strike against him by French and Mauritanian forces.