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Middle East

Libya risks becoming failed state like Somalia: Niger’s president

People surround wreckage of car after a bomb exploded inside the vehicle, killing the driver, Saleh Hamouda, a Libyan intelligence officer, in Benghazi December 5, 2013. (REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)

PARIS: Libya risks becoming a failed state like Somalia, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou said Friday, a day after gunmen shot dead an American teacher in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Niger, which adjoins Libya to the south and has fought Islamists at home, wants to reinforce military ties with Western partners and neighboring states as Al-Qaeda-linked militants regroup in southern Libya after French-led forces ousted them from Mali this year.

“Our fear is that Libya falls into the hands of Salafist terrorists and that the state becomes like Somalia,” Issoufou told reporters ahead of a Franco-African summit in Paris.

“Sadly, we’re seeing that the terrorists are there and that armed Salafist militia are in Benghazi, with people being killed almost every day. We must stabilize Libya.”

Gunmen shot dead an American teacher working in Benghazi on Thursday more than a year after Islamist militants stormed the U.S. consulate there, killing the U.S. ambassador and three others.

Libya’s fragile government is struggling to contain former fighters and militants who, two years after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, are challenging a fragile state that is trying to build a national army with Western aid.

Issoufou, whose country has seen a string of attacks this year, including on a French-run uranium mine, said there was no time to lose for countries in the Sahel desert region to pool their resources to create “mixed brigades” that could enter each other’s countries to combat Islamist fighters.

Regional rivalries have aggravated the problem with a lack of cooperation between Saharan countries helping militants to melt away when they come under pressure and regroup in quieter parts of the vast desert.

“We talk a lot and act very little,” Issoufou said. “We [Niger] are fighting to create an organization that brings together Sahel countries so that solutions are in place to face our common [security] difficulties.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 07, 2013, on page 12.

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