Peace Corps pulls staff from Niger

Jan. 20, 2011 at 11:42 AM
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NIAMEY, Niger, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The Peace Corps announced it pulled its volunteers out of Niger after nearly 50 years citing ongoing security concerns in the country.

The Peace Corps announced all 98 volunteers were evacuated to another country because of growing concerns for their safety.

"The Peace Corps has been committed to development in Niger for nearly five decades," Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams said in a statement. "We have excellent relationships with Nigerian people and communities and we are grateful for the strong partnership we have had with counterpart organizations and the government of Niger."

Two Frenchmen kidnapped by gunmen in Niger were found dead Jan. 8 after a rescue attempt led in part by French troops.

No group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping but in recent years several Westerners have been seized in Niger by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. French Defense Minister Alain Juppe said, however, there was "little doubt" that AQIM was behind the latest kidnappings.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against travel to parts of Niger and all but essential travel in general.

"There is a high threat from terrorism in Niger," the warning read. "Terrorists have been involved in kidnappings in the region and we believe that further kidnap attacks are likely."

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