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Page last updated at 09:52 GMT, Monday, 25 August 2008 10:52 UK

Explosion at Niger arms handover

A Tuareg man
Tuareg rebels have been active for decades in Niger and Mali

Dozens of mines have exploded as they were being handed over by Tuareg rebels to the government of Niger.

One person was killed and 40 seriously injured when a man accidentally stepped on one of the mines, setting off a chain reaction, officials say.

Among the injured is the governor of the Zinder region where the arms handover was taking place.

The Tuareg rebel Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) last week denied it would end their year-long fight.

The dead man was a government official who had been acting as an intermediary between the government and the rebels, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Greater autonomy

The MNJ says it is fighting for greater autonomy and for a larger share of uranium revenue.

MNJ leader Aghaly ag Alambo last week denied a media report his fighters would lay down their arms and participate in a peace process mediated by Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi.

Tuareg militants in Mali and Niger have been engaged in sporadic armed struggles for several decades.

But analysts are divided over whether the Tuareg revolts have been driven by genuine political grievances or efforts to defend control of drugs, arms and migrant-smuggling routes.

Tuaregs are a historically nomadic people living in the Sahara and Sahel regions of North Africa.


SEE ALSO
Q&A: Tuareg unrest
07 Sep 07 |  Africa

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