Niger to expel 150,000 Arabs who fled from Chad
NIAMEY, Oct 25 (Reuters) Niger said it planned to expel 150,000 Arabs, who fled conflict in neighbouring Chad two decades ago, because of tensions with indigenous rural communities in the West African nation.
The nomadic Arabs sought refuge in Niger during the 1980s from a series of armed conflicts which shook Chad, as Libyan-backed forces tried to conquer the country.
''The government has decided to return to its frontiers the Mahamid Arabs because of their difficult relations with indigenous rural populations,'' Niger's Interior Minister Mounkaila Modi told national television yesterday.
''This is an operation conducted with respect for human dignity,'' he said.
Modi said the Arabs from Chad possessed illegal firearms and were a serious threat to the security of local communities.
''The indigenous populations are exasperated by the behaviour of these Arabs. We can no longer tolerate this situation,'' he said, adding the Arabs' camels were draining local oases.
Niger's southeastern Diffa region has similar ethnic groups to Chad, including Arabs.
Reuters PDS VP0722