Niger - Travel Alert
On January 30th about 10:30 PM armed bandits attacked two groups of tourists overnighting in a camp near Temet in Northern Niger.
One of the groups was a Turtle Tour, Carefree, Arizona lead by Leslie Clark. There was no loss of life, but vehicles were stolen, and the travelers lost cameras, cash and other valuables.
Luckily all were able to return home, taking up to a week to arrange transport.
(This was the report Galen sent to International Travel News, Sacramento, California)
(marked with red dot)
GPS 19.59 N 8.41 E
Response By Irma Turtle
Mr. Frysinger's report is correct that one of our groups, participating in the Niger Overland Sahara Expedition from Jan 22 - Feb 6 was robbed by 8 bandits. The robbery occurred on the evening of Jan 30 while the group was camped at Temet, a well-worn spot on the overland route. Another group was camped nearby.
Help was sent for immediately and the rescue cars were at the site by 3pm the next day. The group spent that evening at the hotel in Iferouane and were back in Agadez by the following evening where they were able to file their police reports.
The group still had 4 days left in their program and all but two of the 12 members elected to go back out into the neighboring desert to camp among our Tuareg friends. The two who remained behind flew out on the first available charter on Feb 4. The others, including Mr. Frysinger, elected to return home via their previously scheduled flights on February 6 and 7.
This was a shocking event for all concerned, not only for the trip participants and for us at Turtle Tours but for the country of Niger. Tourism plays a major part in the economy of Niger, with over 2,000 tourists in 1999, over 3,000 in 2000 and another 3-4000 estimated for 2001. Since the days of the rebellion which ended in 1997, there has been one recorded bandit attack in January 98, and one in February, 99. Certainly this record is far better than most major cities. The Niger government responded immediately by launching a military pursuit of the bandits.
I'd like also to note that the trip members were truly extraordinary. They were remarkably resilient under such unfortunate trip-altering circumstances and opted to go on with the tour. And, their most expressed concerns were not for themselves but for the staff who traveled with them who equally were robbed, and for whom the losses were much more damaging. Several of the group members are sending money back to Niger to help the staff cover some of their personal losses.
And three of the tour members have already contacted Turtle Tours about returning to Niger to see the sites they missed as a result of the altered itinerary.
Irma Turtle, Director of Turtle Tours
Notes by Galen Frysinger on Irma's comments
1. The Hero of the situation was Vittorio. Not only did he personally drive along with the Nature Preserve vehicles which came to our rescue, but drove us back to Iferouane where he provided accommodations and meals at his hotel at his own expense, not charging the tour operators.
2. This tour was based on a Paris to Agadez charter flight. On a Friday night after close of business, we were informed by Turtle Tours, that the charter flight scheduled for that following Sunday (two days hence) (1/22/01) was cancelled, and that we would have to get commercial flights. For most, this meant an immediate extra cost of about $1,400, which had to be charged to our personal credit cards. The alternative was to lose all money we had paid for the tour if we could not arrive on time.
On March 17, 2001, 2 months later, the $575 we paid Turtle tours for the failed charter flight was finally returned.
3. Two of the people did leave on an Air Algiers flight by having to transfer new funds from the US, and converting it to local currency, on the off chance that they could get on that flight.
Not mentioned by Ms. Turtle was the fact that three others each paid $1200 extra to leave two days early on an Air France flight from Niamy by upgrading to available space.
The rest of us who had purchased "special rate" last minute tickets to replace the charter, had to wait for those specific replacement flights arriving back in Paris two days later than the tour schedule.
Statement by a tour participant who had jewelry stolen and was threatened.
Irma in her reply is implying how everyone was just dying to get on with the tour and could have spent the next 3 months there...neglecting the fact that I am sure more people would have left if:
a. A space on the charter flight would have been guaranteed,
b. We would have not have had to fork out the cash for the charter flight,.
c. Hotel accommodations would have been provided.
We were basically given 2 options by Irma....stay in Agadez at our own expense or go back to the bush.
Getting to Niamey early was not an option, nor getting to Abidjan early was not an option.
Article as published in the April 2001 issue of
International Travel News
Independent Account of the Robbery
- News of Niger
Joel Mayer, Editor
Tourists Robbed in the Aïr, None Hurt
Late Tuesday night, January 30, a group of tourists was attacked by armed bandits in the Aïr Mountains, 120 km northwest of Iférouane, according to an unofficial military source in Agadez, who said that no one was hurt. The tour group included 13 Americans, 9 Austrians and some Nigeriens.
The military source that that there were about 20 bandits, who spoke with "a Malian accent." They took three all-terrain vehicles, various objects of value, and about 45 million CFA ($65,000) in cash. They also damaged three other all-terrain vehicles belonging to the travel agencies. He said that security forces had been sent in pursuit. The tourists were brought to Iférouane in order to await transportation back to Agadez.
Mr. Dioi Cruz, director of the Adventist Development Relief Agency, told IRIN that the bandits were Malian Tuareg who regularly attack tourist groups and aid workers, principally to steal their all-terrain vehicles.
Sources: AFP, IRIN
Translation of Police report filed
Report made by one of the Austrian group members
zur österreichischen Gruppe der Überfallenen. Die Zahl der Banditen
war nicht höher als etwa 6. Wir haben tatsächlich alles Bargeld und
einen Großteil der Ausrüstung verloren. Einiges wird wohl die
Reiseversicherung ersetzten. Viel mehr betroffen sind aber die
einheimischen Gides und Reiseveranstalter die Ihre Fahrzeuge verloren
haben. Für ein Mitglied der Amerikaner Gruppe hätte der Überfall böse
ausgehen können, er nimmt ein blutdrucksenkendes Medikament ein das für
ihn lebenswichtig ist und das auch bei der Beute war. Gottlob konnten
wir rechtzeitig Hilfe holen.
Gestern hatten wir mit einer zweiten Gruppe von Österreichern
Kontakt, die am 14.12.2000 in Libyen etwa 1000km entfernt am Waw am
Namus vermutlich von den gleichen Banditen überfallen wurden. Die
gleichen vermuten wir deshalb, weil sie die gleichen Methoden angewandt
haben, um die Österreicher einzuschüchtern und auszurauben. Außerdem
wurde den Österreichern ein Fahrzeug gestohlen, das vermutlich das
selbe war wie das, mit dem die Banditen zu uns gekommen sind.
Wir wurden nach dem Überfall vom Militär abgeholt. Die
Einheimischen haben uns sehr aufmerksam behandelt, sogar der Tourismus
Minister von Niger hat uns besucht.
Da die Banditengruppe offensichtlich in der Grenzregion aktiv ist,
wäre eine gemeinsame Aktion von Libyen, Niger, Mali und Algerien
vermutlich die einzige Möglichkeit um eine Wiederholung der Überfälle
und damit eine Schädigung ihres Fremdenverkehrs zu verhindern. Mein
Eindruck war aber auch, dass die Tuaregs, die in diesem Gebiet zu Hause
sind, viel ehrer als das Militär aus dem Süden zum Erfolg kämen.
Das beiliegende Foto zeigt den Ort des Überfalls, ein schönes
Gestern hatten wir mit einer zweiten Gruppe von Österreichern Kontakt, die am 14.12.2000 in Libyen etwa 1000km entfernt am Waw am Namus vermutlich von den gleichen Banditen überfallen wurden. Die gleichen vermuten wir deshalb, weil sie die gleichen Methoden angewandt haben, um die Österreicher einzuschüchtern und auszurauben. Außerdem wurde den Österreichern ein Fahrzeug gestohlen, das vermutlich das selbe war wie das, mit dem die Banditen zu uns gekommen sind.
Wir wurden nach dem Überfall vom Militär abgeholt. Die Einheimischen haben uns sehr aufmerksam behandelt, sogar der Tourismus Minister von Niger hat uns besucht.
Da die Banditengruppe offensichtlich in der Grenzregion aktiv ist, wäre eine gemeinsame Aktion von Libyen, Niger, Mali und Algerien vermutlich die einzige Möglichkeit um eine Wiederholung der Überfälle und damit eine Schädigung ihres Fremdenverkehrs zu verhindern. Mein Eindruck war aber auch, dass die Tuaregs, die in diesem Gebiet zu Hause sind, viel ehrer als das Militär aus dem Süden zum Erfolg kämen.
Das beiliegende Foto zeigt den Ort des Überfalls, ein schönes Fleckchen Erde!
I am one of the Austrians who came into trouble together with you in Tenere Niger. I was sitting near you during dinner at Telet Hotel Inferouane .
I think I have an interesting information for your group:
One month before us an Austrian group was attacked in Libya in the some way like we: They were coming with a car, steeling their 3 cars, moving the cars all the time, we even guess that the pickup car, which they used, was stolen from that group.
Dieter's Photo of the site
Another report of bandits in Niger
September 2000: Bandits Rob Bus Passengers Near Agadez
Four highwaymen armed with automatic weapons held up a public transport vehicle near Agadez and robbed the passengers. According to the report the robbers got away with 5 million CFA in cash and the passengers’ baggage.
Web page of "Dunes Voyages", our local tour provider
Comments on Turtle Tours October 2000 Niger tour
Article published in
International Travel News
Irma was in Mali, January 2001
So, How much did she know,
and, When did she know?
An updated Consular Advisory
Niger - Consular Information Sheets February 28, 2001
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Niger is a developing, inland African nation whose northern area includes a part of the Sahara Desert. Tourism facilities are minimal, particularly outside the capital city of Niamey.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Niger returned to a democratically elected government in December 1999 following several years of political instability and military rule. While a sense of political stability has been restored, there continues to be potential for disturbances, particularly by students, as the new government enforces economic reform measures. U.S. citizens should avoid street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
The Department of State urges U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Niger to exercise caution when traveling in the northern part of the country. In January 2001, the region around Agadez and the Air Mountains experienced increased criminal activity by armed bandits. In these attacks, groups of foreign travelers, including Americans, have been robbed of vehicles, cash, and belongings and left stranded in the remote desert. The government of Niger is taking steps to address this problem. However, travelers in northern Niger should consult local police authorities regarding their itinerary and adequate security arrangements. U.S. citizens visiting Niger are reminded to register with the U.S. Embassy in Niamey.
CRIME: Crime in Niamey has reached critical levels. Tourists should not walk alone around the Gaweye Hotel, National Museum, and on or near the Kennedy Bridge at any time. This area is especially prone to muggings (day and night) and should be avoided. Recent criminal incidents in Niger have included carjackings, home invasions, and muggings. In December 2000, an American Embassy employee was killed and another was gravely wounded in a carjacking in central Niamey. As a result, the U.S. Ambassador has declared three nightclubs in the area -- La Cloche, La Croisette, and Takoubakoye -- off-limits to U.S. Government personnel, including Peace Corps volunteers. Armed bandits are particularly active in remote regions in northern and eastern Niger, especially on roads between major cities. Please use caution and common sense at all times to avoid thieves and pickpockets.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa, provide useful information on protecting personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/.
Report from UN
MALI-NIGER: Fighting Banditry in the Southern Sahara
November 23, 2000
Posted to the web November 23, 2000
A military operation to flush out armed bandits from the northern Malian region of Kidal should be completed by the weekend, an army information officer told IRIN on Wednesday.
Sub-Lt Aboubakar Tapo declined to give details of the operation. However, AFP quoted a civilian from Kidal as saying he saw an unspecified number of wounded being taken to hospital.
The army has been trying for months to dislodge the bandits from the area. Tapo said the majority were Tauregs. He said they have been raiding settlements to steal cattle and seizing cars from nongovernmental organizations for resale in a trans-Saharan trade that includes neighboring countries such as Algeria, Mauritania and Niger.
"They also traffic in guns," Tapo said.
For example, police in Niger arrested three men armed with Kalashnikov automatic assault rifles in Agadez, a desert town in northern Niger, after an unsuccessful attempt to seize a jeep, a humanitarian source told IRIN.
The southern Sahara region between Mali, Niger and Chad has been plagued by banditry in recent times. Some of the bandits are thought to be former rebels who fought the Malian and Niger armies until peace deals were reached in 1995. In Niger, rebellion broke out again in 1997, and ended in 1998. In northern Chad a new rebellion began in late 1998.
Attempts to stamp out crime in the southern Sahara have failed, although Tapo said Mali's army had registered some success in the area between the town of Gao and the border with Niger following joint army patrols by the two countries.
Tale of another Sahara Adventure
(had problems with the officials in Niger)
A more recent report of Bandits in Niger
German Tourists Found in
Sunday March 25, 2001
Los Angeles Times
BERLIN--Five German tourists feared
kidnapped following an armed robbery Sunday in the West African country of Niger
were safe, the German Foreign Ministry said.
Problems still exist in this area in 2003Austrian tourists missing in Sahara
Eight Austrian tourists have gone missing in the Sahara desert in southern Algeria, bringing the number of foreign travellers who have disappeared in the region recently to 29.
The eight "adventure tourists" were reported missing by relatives on Friday after they failed to board a ferry in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, as scheduled.
The Austrian Foreign Ministry has sent two diplomats and two officers from a special police unit to the region to help the search for those missing.
Austria has also issued a travel warning for the country, urging all its citizens to leave the country or contact its embassy in the country.
Officials in Algeria are still searching for several groups of tourists - 16 Germans (in several different groups), four Swiss and one Dutch national - who have all gone missing in the desert wilderness since mid-February.
The tourists were travelling through the Sahara Desert by car or motorbike, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry said earlier this week.
Helicopters using heat-seeking devices - capable of locating bodies and machines buried under sand - have been enlisted to find those who have disappeared, so far without success.
Germany has also sent five federal police agents to Algeria to help official search efforts, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Smugglers and drug traffickers are known to haunt the area around southern Algeria, near the borders with Niger and Libya, and there are fears the tourists may have been kidnapped.
Several of these criminal groups have been linked to Islamic militants fighting the Algerian Government.
However authorities have said that the travellers could also have experienced vehicle problems because of sand and extreme temperatures.
Tourists have been found dead in the Sahara desert in the past, usually stranded after their fuel has run out.
Published: 2003/04/05 16:43:59
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