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U.S. Citizen Kidnapped in Niger Raises Security Issues

An American citizen was kidnapped in southern Niger early Tuesday near an area where militants linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are known to attack, U.S. and Nigerien officials said. No group has asserted responsibility for the abduction, which a senior government official in Niger said happened in Birnin Konni, a remote town close to the West African country’s border with Nigeria. The official was not authorized to speak publicly. A State Department spokesperson, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to department rules, said the department was aware of the abduction of a U.S. citizen and was providing the victim’s family with “all possible consular assistance.” Other details about the American were scarce. The State Department said it was working with Nigerien authorities but declined to share more information, citing privacy concerns. Niger is grappling with an Islamist insurgency that has grown deadlier during the coronavirus pandemic. Violence in the Sahel, a vast stretch of arid land south of the Sahara Desert, has surged as nations struggle to confront a security crisis on top of the public health threat. The number of casualties this year had reached 5,365 by October, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, which is tracking the conflict — a 12 percent increase from 2019’s entire tally. The kidnapping comes less than two months after Islamic State fighters ambushed a normally calm giraffe sanctuary near Niger’s capital, Niamey, killing seven aid workers and their local guide.