Suicide bombers staged twin attacks on a uranium mine owned by French nuclear company Areva (EPA:AREVA) and an army barracks in Niger on Thursday morning, killing 26 people and wounding 30 in the latest wave of violence across West Africa.
Areva, which has been mining uranium in Niger for 40 years, confirmed later that one employee died and at least 14 members of staff were wounded in the attack to its Somair uranium mine, in the town of Arlit, located in the country’s north desert.
The firm, a recurring target for Islamist activists in the African nation over the past three years, said Niger forces would now handle the security of its operations, which are momentarily suspended as installations resulted “badly damaged” by the explosion.
Speaking on France Inter radio, Niger government spokesman, Marou Amadou, said the crushing and grinding units at the Somair mine had been particularly hit.
“It’s enough to stop the mine for now,” he said, attributed the two attacks to Islamist militants, likely from al Qaeda’s north Africa wing, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) or its spin-off West African group The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).
The groups seized control of neighbouring north Mali in 2012, but a French-led offensive overthrew them in January.
Areva’s Niger operations are crucial to its mining business and its mines in the African country are a key source of supply for France’s nuclear generation industry.
Last year, Niger accounted for about one-third of the company’s uranium resources, with Somair mine reporting 3,065 tons of Uranium, 339 tons more than in 2011.
Niger is the world’s fourth largest producer of uranium, accounting for about 10% of global output, according to the World Nuclear Association.
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