Niger’s embassy in Libya ‘surrounded’ by heavily armed militia
Niger said Tuesday its embassy in Libya was surrounded by heavily armed militias, possibly in response to unfounded rumors that Nigerien forces had entered the Libyan embassy in Niamey.
The militias encircled the mission in the capital Tripoli in the early hours of Tuesday, resulting in “diplomatic personnel, including the ambassador, being confined,” the secretary general of Niger’s foreign ministry, Abani Sani Ibrahim, told reporters.
He said the gunmen, who drove up in “military vehicles” fitted with heavy machineguns, did not attack the embassy, but he qualified the situation as “extremely serious”.
Ibrahim did not identify the militias.
The official said the incident could be linked to “false” rumors that Nigerian armed forces had entered Libya’s embassy in Niger.
He rejected any possibility that the militias might be reacting to regular appeals by Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou for military intervention in Libya, which has plunged into chaos following the NATO-facilitated ouster of dictator Moamer Qaddafi in October 2011.
A Libyan government source told AFP that Libya’s ambassador to Niger had been replaced for supporting Libyan militias, but was refusing to leave.
Militias, jihadist groups and criminal gangs armed from plundered weapon stockpiles have turned large parts of the country into violent and lawless territory.