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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 11:32 GMT
Rescued Niger slaves 'tortured'
By Idy Barou in Niamey

Aid workers have been giving details of the physical and psychological trauma suffered by 10 slaves rescued on Monday in the Tahoua region of northern Niger.

One human rights official, Iglass Weiller, said the 10 men, women and children, who had been slaves all their lives, had suffered torture and starvation.

Niger tourist zone
Slaves are kept in some of Niger's tourist areas

He told a press conference in the capital Niamey on Wednesday that the owner of the slaves - who has not yet been apprehended - had raped the women and girls regularly.

Despite a prohibition against the centuries-old practice, keeping slaves is still widespread in many areas of northern Niger.

Dramatic raid

Mr Weiller said that interviews with the rescued slaves revealed that the men had been made to grow all the food for the owner's household.

The women and girls had regularly fetched firewood and water as well as doing all the housework.

He said they were rescued in a dramatic raid by police, who are now searching the area for the owner and his accomplices.

The freed slaves were found in torn and dirty clothes with fresh wounds on their bodies.

Evidently, Mr Weiller added, they had not received medical care for a long time, if at all.

A 1999 survey on the lucrative trade in humans estimated that there are more than 20,000 slaves in Niger, particularly in towns like Acadez and Zinder.

See also:

26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Niger
24 Sep 01 | Africa
Child slaves returned to Togo
07 Sep 01 | Africa
Africa media split on slavery
30 Apr 01 | Africa
Ship children 'were slaves'
30 Jul 01 | Africa
Niger gripped by 'Sultangate'
16 Apr 01 | Africa
West Africa's 'little maids'
18 Jan 01 | Africa
Africa's trade in children
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