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Last Updated: Monday, 19 November 2007, 17:23 GMT
Niger raids leaves 'ghost town'
Iferouane is in the region of Agadez
The entire population of northern Niger's remote desert town of Iferouane has fled as a result of insecurity, the deputy mayor has told the BBC.

Mohammed Oumma says an insurrection by Tuareg nomads, food shortages and army harassment have forced a wholesale exodus of the town's 5,000 residents.

The government in Niamey denies that Iferouane, home to several uranium mines, has become a ghost town.

But a spokesman admitted that rebels had mined roads, blocking supplies.

Mr Oumma said the last straw for the residents was when the armed forces conducted raids on the civilian population, whom they accused of lending support to the rebels.

The Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) launched an uprising in northern Niger in February to demand greater autonomy for the Tuareg people.

BBC West Africa correspondent Will Ross says the Tuareg rebels have threatened to attack the uranium mines, as they demand a greater share of the proceeds.

Most MNJ attacks have been concentrated on army garrison outposts in the desert areas between Agadez and the border.

The rebels say they have killed more than 50 government soldiers and taken dozens captive.

The central government says much of the insecurity has been fomented by bandits and smugglers.

But our correspondent says that, with a state of emergency in place and no journalists allowed in, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know what is taking place in the north of Niger.

Q&A: Tuareg unrest
07 Sep 07 |  Africa
Country profile: Niger
16 May 07 |  Country profiles

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