(AFP) – Nov 18, 2008
NIAMEY (AFP) — The Niger government denied Tuesday the involvement of its soldiers in clashes with Tuareg rebels last week, but said four of its troops had been killed by a mine.
Movement of Niger People for Justice (MNJ) rebels claimed Monday they had clashed with troops near the main northern city of Agadez, killing "numerous" soldiers and injuring a "significant number" of others.
Not so, according to Niger Communication Minister Mohamed Ben Omar, who said, "No battles took place. A army convoy hit a mine between Elmiki and Dabaga, unfortunately killing four soldiers."
A second mine in the northern region had lightly injured more troops in the same convoy, he added.
Agadez is the regional capital of northern Niger, where fighting has been ongoing since 2007. Both the army and rebels accuse each other of planting mines in the area.
The MNJ splintered off from Niger's main Tuareg groups who signed a 1995 agreement with the government to end their rebellion.
The nomadic Tuareg people roamed the Sahara for centuries before nations of the region gained independence from European colonial powers. The MNJ is seeking a share in Niger's uranium wealth as well as a role in the armed forces.
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