State Department issues travel warning for Niger

State Department issues travel warning for Niger
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The State Department on Monday urged United States citizens not to visit Niger's border regions in a travel warning that cited kidnappings by terrorist organizations.

The warning specifically said citizens should avoid visiting areas near Niger's border with Libya and Mali, in addition to the Lake Chad Basin and the Diffa region in the country's southeast.

“Terrorist organizations, armed groups, and smugglers operate in the areas bordering Mali, Libya, and throughout northern Niger,” the travel warning said. “Mali-based extremist groups have crossed the border and carried out multiple lethal attacks on Nigerien security forces (FDS) and on U.S. forces assisting the FDS.” 

The travel warning cited al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) affiliates in the Sahara, Libya and West Africa, and Boko Haram.

The announcement from the State Department comes weeks after four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger when militants ambushed them and Nigerien troops.

“There is a high threat of kidnapping by various terrorist groups, who have kidnapped Westerners, including a U.S. citizen, and threatened U.S. citizens in Niger,” the State Department added.

“As a result of safety and security concerns, some organizations, including foreign companies, NGOs, and private aid organizations have suspended operations in Niger or withdrawn family members and/or staff,” it said.

The warning also comes the same day the State Department promised up to $60 million to aid the Group of Five Sahel States Joint Force, which includes Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Burkina Faso, in security efforts. 

“Defeating terrorism depends on making sure terrorist organizations cannot have safe havens on any continent,” Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonFormer WH adviser: Trump will want to rejoin Paris climate pact by 2020 Why the US should lead on protecting Rohingya Muslims 'Bolivarian Diaspora' can no longer be ignored MORE said in a statement Monday.

“This money will bolster our regional partners in their fight to ensure security and stability in the face of ISIS and affiliated groups and other terrorist networks. This is a fight we must win, and these funds will play a key role in achieving that mission,” he added.

Various extremist groups operate throughout both the Sahel and West Africa, including multiple ISIS and al Qaeda affiliates.

This report was updated on Dec. 18 at 10:25 am.