Some recent news / analysis:
Reports say that at least three people were killed and several others injured on 11 August after a gang of Tuareg rebels attacked buses travelling on the Agadez-Arlit highway in the north-east.
This attack reflects an increase in activity by some Tuareg gangs, which claim that they are resuming the rebellion that officially ended in 2000. Traditionally, the northern regions of the country have posed HIGH travel and security risks because of banditry and the potential infiltration of terrorists from Algeria. Although there has been an increase in attacks on civilians in the area, the Tuareg gangs are not known to have any direct links with terrorists at this time.
The attack was the third in as many months. The perpetrators fired automatic weapons on three buses, killing three people and injuring 11 others. Reports also indicate that the gang kidnapped two policemen.
A group of former Tuareg rebels, known as the Liberation Front of Aïr and Azawagh (FLAA), has warned that it is resuming its activities after a key Tuareg leader, Rhissa Ag Boula, was imprisoned in February for his role in the killing of a ruling party official. Ag Boula was a leader of the group that operated in Tahoua and Agadez in the early 1990s.
The US has been involved in the training of Niger's police and other security forces in bomb disposal and other activities to assist security provision in remote desert areas because of the increasing risk of terrorism in the Sahel desert region. The Sahel is also known for smuggling and human trafficking. The US is trying to curb the potential influence of the Algerian-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an Islamic extremist organisation that operates in the Sahel.