Niger Travel Warning
Issued by US Department of State
Jul 17, 2015
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Niger and specifically recommends citizens avoid travel to the Diffa region, particularly those areas adjacent to Niger’s southern and eastern border, and Lake Chad. The entire Lake Chad region, not only Niger’s border with Nigeria, is especially vulnerable because of rising activities by the extremist group Boko Haram. This replaces the Travel Warning for Niger dated March 27, 2014, to update U.S. citizens on the current security situation in 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. The ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services in remote and rural areas is limited. U.S. citizens should take steps to mitigate the risk of becoming a victim of violent acts, and reduce exposure to locations routinely frequented by Westerners, including markets, restaurants, bars, and places of worship. Locations such as these have been targeted in the region by violent groups and will likely be targeted in the future.
Terrorist groups in the past have called for and executed attacks against countries that supported the intervention against terrorist groups in northern Mali, including Niger. Because of terrorist and kidnapping threats, the Embassy Travel Policy requires armed Nigerien security escorts for U.S. government employees’ official travel north of the latitude of Niamey and to the east of Maradi. The areas bordering Mali and Libya, and northern Niger continue to be of serious concern. Additionally, security operations to counter Boko Haram in northern Nigeria and southeastern Niger have resulted in security degradation along the Niger-Nigeria border, primarily east of Maradi. The border is porous, and there are frequent reports of suspected terrorists and smugglers crossing into Niger.
On February 6-7, Boko Haram used mortars and suicide bombers to attack Bosso and Diffa town in the Diffa region of Niger. On February 10, the Government of Niger declared a state of emergency in the Diffa region. A curfew has been in place in Diffa region since December 2014.
In November 2014, militants mounted a successful multi-pronged attack in the Tillabery region, killing nine Nigerien security members; an unknown number of prisoners escaped from prison in connection with the attack.
In June 2013, 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.
In May 2013, terrorists using suicide car bombs, explosive vests, and small arms attacked a Nigerien military compound in Agadez and a uranium mining facility operated by a French company in Arlit.
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. A French family of seven was kidnapped while entering a national park in Cameroon in February 2013 and in November another French citizen was taken from Cameroon. Although there have been no kidnappings of westerners in Niger since January 2011, travelers are urged to exercise extreme caution in Niger due to the seriousness of the kidnapping threats against Westerners. 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.
On January 16-17, large-scale protests occurred throughout Niger, resulting in the destruction of more than 45 churches in Niamey alone. The Embassy recommends avoiding large public gatherings, and avoiding travel within the city if you hear reports of demonstrations. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational without warning. As witnessed in the past, Nigerien security services may interrupt cell and social media connection before and during protests.
The Government of Niger continues to maintain security checkpoints in Niamey to address security concerns. Be 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 receive clear permission to do so. If you are uncertain, please request verbal confirmation before proceeding.
Crime in Niger is a concern. Residential crime targeting homes without guards in Niamey is commonplace. This threat is easily mitigated by having 24/7 residential guards. Most crime in Niamey is non-violent and generally manifests in the form of pick-pocketing or purse-snatching; however, car-jacking and armed robbery can occur. Outside Niamey, the potential for violent crimes increases significantly. Armed bandits target travelers on roads in all parts of the country. Armed escorts are required for all Embassy travel north of Niamey and to, or east of, Maradi. For U.S. government personnel, all travel outside Niamey must occur during daylight hours. We recommend U.S. citizens follow a similar procedure, i.e., travel no earlier than after sunrise and no later than one hour prior to sunset. Throughout Niger, U.S. government travelers stay only at hotels that have armed Nigerien government security.
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.