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Niger Miner Evacuates Following Threats

The Tamgak open air uranium mine is seen in Arlit, Niger. Taken Sept. 25, 2013.
The Tamgak open air uranium mine is seen in Arlit, Niger. Taken Sept. 25, 2013.

NIAMEY - French uranium miner Orano said on Friday it had evacuated expatriate staff from northern Niger after being warned of a threat in the jihadist-troubled region.

The company late Thursday was advised of a "security event" in a village located halfway between the Malian border and the mining town of Arlit, it said in a statement.

"Measures were immediately set in place to protect (Orano) sites," it said.

Orano's expatriate personnel and other foreign workers on temporary assignment who were living in a compound at Akokan near Arlit "were evacuated under escort and flown to Niamey," Niger's capital, it said.

"The return of all the evacuated staff should take place in the next few days as soon as there is confirmation that any risk can be ruled out," Orano said.

Orano is the successor to France's state-run Areva, which has had uranium mining interests in Niger for decades.

In 2010, seven Areva employees -- five French nationals, a Togolese and a Madagascan -- were kidnapped at Arlit by armed men.

One of the French captives, Francoise Larribe, was released five months later along with the Madagascan and Togolese.

The four other hostages were only released in October 2013, shortly after their detention was claimed by Al-Qaeda's North African branch, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

A landlocked and deeply impoverished state lying in the heart of the turbulent Sahel, Niger is struggling with two jihadist campaigns.

One is an insurgency that swept into the west of the country from Mali in 2015, while the other is a spillover by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria that affects its southeast.