Travel Alert Status
Level 3: Reconsider Travel
July 15, 2013
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Niger. U.S. citizens in Niger, and those considering travel to Niger, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing threats to safety and security. On June 13, 2013, the Department of State approved authorized departure for family members of Embassy personnel because of security concerns. Since that time, circumstances have improved and, as of July 12, the U.S. Embassy in Niger is no longer on authorized departure status. This replaces the Travel Warning for Niger dated June 13, 2013, to update information about the current security situation.
The Government of Niger continues to erect security checkpoints in Niamey to address the security concerns in the country. The Embassy recommends that citizens traveling in Niger remain especially careful around security checkpoints, as security forces continue to be on a heightened state of alert. Do not drive away from, or through, a checkpoint until you are given clear permission to do so. If you are unsure of what to do, please request verbal confirmation before proceeding.
On June 1, prisoners in Niamey's main prison staged a prison break. Of the 32 prisoners who successfully escaped, several are suspected to have ties to terrorist organizations. The majority of the escapees remain at large.
On May 23, 2013, terrorists using suicide car bombs attacked a Nigerien military compound in Agadez and a uranium mining facility, operated by a French company, in Arlit.
Terrorist groups have called for and executed attacks against countries that have supported intervention against terrorist groups in northern Mali, including Niger. The areas bordering Mali and Libya, and the northern region of Niger continue to be of specific concern. The border is porous, and there are frequent reports of suspected terrorist and armed bandit groups crossing into Niger. The Government of Niger has increased its security forces in the border areas, but the situation remains unstable and travel to the border areas near Mali and Libya is not advised. The U.S. Embassy in Niamey will continue to monitor this situation closely and update U.S. citizens via "Security Messages for U.S. Citizens." These security messages are posted on U.S. Embassy Niamey's website.
Because of security threats, the U.S. Embassy in Niamey continues to restrict the travel of U.S. government employees and official visitors north of the latitude of Niamey. The U.S. Embassy also continues to evaluate proposed travel and official and personal activities for employees on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with Nigerien security authorities. Recently, the possibility of violence related to extremist and criminal groups coming from northern Nigeria has led the Nigerien government to recommend armed escorts for travel in far eastern Niger. The Embassy requires armed escorts for official U.S. citizen travel east of Zinder, because of the state of emergency in northern Nigeria.
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a group designated as a terrorist organization by the Department of State since 2002, continues its threats to kidnap Westerners in Niger, including U.S. citizens, and has kidnapped Europeans in the region. On January 7, 2011, two French nationals were kidnapped in the capital city of Niamey. They were found dead less than 24 hours later following a rescue attempt by French and Nigerien military forces. In September 2010, seven people, including five French citizens, a Togolese, and a Malagasy were kidnapped by AQIM from the northern mining town of Arlit. Four French citizens are still being held hostage by AQIM. Although there have been no kidnappings of Westerners in Niger since January 2011, the Department of State Worldwide Caution dated July 18, 2012 reminds U.S. citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness when traveling in the region.
As a result of safety and security concerns, some organizations, including foreign companies, NGOs, and private aid organizations, have temporarily suspended operations in Niger or withdrawn some family members and/or staff.
Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. government policy not to make concessions to kidnappers.
The U.S. Embassy in Niamey strongly encourages U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Niger despite this Travel Warning to enroll in the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP), so you can receive the most up-to-date security information. Please keep all of your information in STEP current. It is important when enrolling or updating information to include multiple phone numbers and email addresses to facilitate communication in the event of an emergency.
U.S. citizens should consult the Country Specific Information for Niger and the Worldwide Caution, both located on the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. Download our free Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes and Google Play for the latest information. If you don't have internet access, current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers from other countries, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The U.S. Embassy in Niamey is located on Rue des Ambassades. The Embassy's telephone number is (227) 20-72-26-61. You can contact the Embassy after-hours for emergencies at telephone: (227) 20-72-31-41.
Safety and Security
The border region with Mali continues to be of specific concern since the Malian government's loss of control over its northern region in early 2012 and the ongoing military intervention that began in early 2013. The border is porous, and there are frequent reports of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other terrorist or rebel groups crossing into Niger. The Government of Niger has increased its security forces in the border area, but the situation remains unstable and travel there is not advised. Conditions of insecurity persist in the northern and western areas of Niger, as well as the southeast border with Nigeria near Diffa. You are warned of the risks of travel to Niger, and urged to exercise extreme caution due to increased kidnapping threats against Westerners. Because of security threats, the U.S. Embassy continues to restrict the travel of U.S. government employees and official visitors in the areas north of Niamey. Travel of U.S. government employees and official visitors to areas south and east of Niamey, including the cities of Maradi, Zinder, and Diffa, requires coordination with the Regional Security Office and final approval by the Ambassador. Travelers should exercise caution in the border area between Niger and Nigeria. Terrorist groups in Nigeria have grown increasingly bold and have conducted kidnappings outside of national borders. These groups have conducted large-scale, military-style attacks on civilian and government targets in northern Nigeria, to include fortified targets such as police stations. A French family of seven was kidnapped while entering a national park in Cameroon in February 2013. The U.S. Embassy continues to evaluate proposed travel and official and personal activities for employees on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with Nigerien security authorities.
As noted in the Department of State’s Worldwide Caution, both the United States and the European Union have designated the Islamic extremist group al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) as a terrorist organization. AQIM has declared its intention to attack Western targets throughout the Sahel (including Mali, Mauritania, and Niger), and has claimed responsibility for the following recent kidnappings/attempted kidnappings and other violent events:
2012 and 2013: Ongoing armed conflict in northern Mali.
December 2012: Assassination attempt on a Malian ex-army officer in Niamey; the assailant had terrorist ties. While the target was not a U.S. citizen, the attack demonstrated that acts of terrorism can occur throughout Niger.
October 2012: Unidentified gunmen kidnapped six people in Dakoro. While none of the hostages were U.S. citizens, the attackers appeared to be seeking to capture Westerners.
January 2011: Two French nationals were kidnapped in Niamey. They were found dead less than 24 hours later following a rescue attempt by French and Nigerien military forces.
September 2010: Seven people, including five French nationals, a citizen of Togo, and a citizen of Madagascar, were kidnapped by AQIM from the northern mining town of Arlit. Four of the French citizens are still being held hostage by AQIM.
April 2010: A French citizen and his Algerian driver were kidnapped. The Algerian was freed. AQIM claimed the French citizen was killed in retaliation for the July attempted rescue operation conducted by Mauritanian and French military forces, but the remains have not been recovered.
For travel in any remote area of the country, the Department of State urges you to use registered guides and to travel with a minimum of two vehicles equipped with global positioning systems (GPS) and satellite phones (if possible). Travelers are advised to avoid restricted military areas and to consult local police authorities regarding your itinerary and security arrangements.
Avoid street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. Large and small street demonstrations occur regularly in Niger, often near government buildings, university campuses, or other gathering places such as public parks. Although demonstrations can occur spontaneously, large student demonstrations typically begin in January – February and continue through May. Be particularly vigilant at these times and avoid travel around the city if you hear reports of demonstrations. During previous student demonstrations, rock-throwing demonstrators have targeted non-governmental organization (NGO) and diplomatic vehicles bearing “IT” or “CD” plates. Many past demonstrations have involved rock throwing and tire burning, especially at key intersections in the city of Niamey.
Due to the spontaneous nature of street demonstrations, it is not possible for the Embassy to notify U.S. citizens each time a demonstration occurs. Maintain security awareness at all times and avoid large public gatherings and street demonstrations. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational without advance warning. While the Embassy endeavors to inform U.S. citizens of demonstrations through the warden system when possible, local radio and television stations are good sources for information as well.
NOTE TO NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION WORKERS: Following the murder of a French tourist in the region of Agadez in 2005, the Government of Niger began requiring that NGOs not only be registered and officially recognized, but also that they inform the Nigerien government of each mission they plan to undertake in Niger. To avoid detention and/or expulsion by Nigerien authorities, the U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that NGO workers:
Make sure that your NGO has registered and received official recognition from the Government of Niger. For details on how to do this, please visit the Managing Office of Decentralized Cooperation and Non-Governmental Organizations (Direction De La Cooperation Decentralisée et Des Organisations Non Governementales) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (Ministre des Affaires Etrangères et de la Cooperation).
Carry with you a copy of the official recognition (Arrêté) of the right of your NGO to operate in Niger.
If your international NGO sponsor is without a permanent presence in Niger, verify that the NGO group has informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation at least two weeks prior to the start of a mission in Niger. This notice should be in writing and should include the purpose of the mission, the dates of the mission, where the mission will take place, and the types and license plate numbers of the vehicles involved in the mission. The Ministry of the Interior should be copied on this notice of mission.
If your NGO is a national NGO, i.e., its headquarters is in Niger, verify that the group has informed the Ministry of Planning, Land Management, and Community Development (Ministre du Plan, de l’Aménagement du Territoire et du Developpement Communautaire) at least two weeks prior to the start of a mission in Niger. This notice should be in writing and should include the purpose of the mission, the names of the individuals who will be working for the NGO on the mission, the dates of the mission, where the mission will take place, and the types and license plate numbers of the vehicles involved in the mission. The Ministry of the Interior should be copied on this notice of mission.
NGOs should ask for a receipt of the notification provided to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Ministry of the Interior, and Ministry of Planning, Land Management, and Community Development.
The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that NGO workers present themselves at the regional governor’s office prior to beginning their mission in a particular region of Niger in addition to the requirements listed above. Again, NGO workers should ask for a receipt of their presentation to the regional governor. It would also be wise to provide the regional governor with the same written notification that was provided to the ministries listed above.
Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to kidnappers. Consequently, the type of assistance that the U.S. government can provide to kidnap victims is limited.
Because of safety and security concerns, Peace Corps temporarily suspended its operations in Niger in January 2011.