A Tuareg rebel group claimed responsibility for the abduction of a UN envoy on the outskirts of Niger’s capital, saying on Tuesday that the veteran Canadian diplomat was in good health.
But hours later, the same group reversed course, posting a second statement signed by a different rebel leader that condemned the kidnapping of Robert Fowler and denied responsibility.
It was unclear whether the contradictory statements indicate a rift within the Front for the Forces of Redress (FFR), a rebel group comprised of ethnic Tuaregs.
The second statement, signed by the president of the rebel group, left open the possibility that dissident rebels acting in the name of the FFR could be responsible.
“If others who adhere to the ideals of the FFR did take the Canadian diplomat hostage, the FFR cannot assume responsibility,” it said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who appointed Fowler as UN special envoy to Niger in July, said his staff was doing all it could to find out what happened. Fowler, his Canadian deputy and their driver were reported missing on Sunday after their abandoned car was found 48km northeast of Niamey, Niger’s capital.
The FFR is a splinter group in a larger rebellion being fought by Tuareg rebels in Niger’s northern desert. The Tuaregs have long been at odds with the governments of the various states touched by the desert, including Niger.
A rebellion broke out in 1990 and ended with a 1995 peace accord.
It promised a degree of autonomy, development funds for the north, and integration of the Tuareg minority into the country’s armed forces and government.
But hostilities resumed last year as the government of President Mamadou Tandja intensified uranium drilling in the northern desert.
“We are sending Canada a strong signal as they are one of the sources of arms for Tandja used to fight the native population,” said the first statement posted on the group’s Web site on Tuesday.
Soon after the first statement was posted on the FFR Web site claiming responsibility, the main Tuareg rebel group based in Niger posted a note on its Web site, condemning the alleged abduction.
The Niger Movement for Justice, known by its French abbreviation MNJ, has taken dozens of soldiers in Niger hostage but is not known for taking foreigners.
PASTA PUNCHLINE: Billy McLean’s spoof poking fun at misinformation on the coronavirus was meant for friends, but is being eaten up by frazzled Britons It started off as an ad-libbed joke for some friends in a soccer banter group and ended up being heard by vast numbers of Britons within hours. However, the man responsible for a joke WhatsApp audio clip that claimed the UK Ministry of Defence was about to requisition Wembley Stadium to cook the world’s biggest lasagna has said his viral success also shows the risks of believing everything that gets sent to you on the messaging service. Billy McLean, a 29-year-old Londoner who works in software sales, came forward to the Guardian to identify himself as the creator of the much-shared clip
‘AN HONORABLE TASK’: The brigade to Italy is the sixth contingent of doctors the nation has sent abroad to aid governments contending with the COVID-19 pandemic Cuba has dispatched doctors and nurses to Italy for the first time this weekend to help fight COVID-19 at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy, it said. The Caribbean nation has sent its “armies of white robes” to disaster sites around the world largely in poor countries since its 1959 revolution, with doctors on the front lines in the fight against cholera in Haiti and against ebola in West Africa in the 2010s. Yet with the 52-strong brigade, this is the first time Cuba has sent an emergency contingent to Italy, one of the world’s richest countries, demonstrating the reach of
EASING RESTRICTIONS: After there were no new locally transmitted cases for three consecutive days, officials have started to relax limitations on freedom of movement China on Friday reported a record rise in imported COVID-19 cases as expatriates returned home from the US and Europe, sparking fears of a second wave of infections just as the country recovers from the initial outbreak. All 41 of the new confirmed cases in China were imported from abroad, the Chinese National Health Commission said yesterday, bringing the total number of such cases to 269. Beijing and Shanghai were the main entry points for the returnees, many of whom are students who were studying abroad, official reports said. They have come back after many campuses in the US and Europe shut
There are growing concerns for the health of Rokia Traore, a Malian singer who has been on hunger strike at the Fleury-Merogis Prison near Paris since she was arrested on March 10 on allegations of kidnapping her daughter in a child custody dispute. “I am very worried,” said Kenneth Feliho, her lawyer. “She is only drinking. She has not been eating for over a week and her immune system is weak.” Among those calling for the musician’ release are African stars including Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour and Angelique Kidjo. Damon Albarn, who performed with her in the group Africa Express, wrote: “We demand,