|Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou(Right) And Nigerian Counterpart, Goodluck Jonathan; Photo Credit: AFP|
Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou and his Nigerian counterpart Goodluck Jonathan agreed Thursday to reinforce joint efforts against terrorism in their countries, which have been the target of attacks by armed Islamists.
During a visit by Jonathan to the Nigerien capital Niamey, the two nations' defence ministers signed security and defence agreements, aimed at "information exchange" to fight transborder crime.
The accords also allow the countries to seek help from each other if one were to be "threatened by an aggression or by an armed destabilization".
"We are facing the same threats... so we are preparing, organising to share" our information systems and defence and security forces, said Issoufou.
"There is a lot of work still to do," he added. "Our goal is to promote... a relentless fight against terrorism and criminal organizations."
Jonathan also pointed out that "the criminals don't restect national boundaries.
"For the two countries to protect themselves, we must work together," he said.
Both countries underlined their concerns with "international terrorism", citing groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Boko Haram.
Issoufou said the security situation had deteriorated since the start of a crisis in Niger's neighbour Mali, where Islamist groups including AQIM have seized control of the north.
"We cannot tolerate what is happening in Mali," he said, condemning "the return of barbarity" there.
"(It's) a matter of internal security for our country," he added.
Issoufou called for support of an October 12 United Nations Security Council resolution asking West African nations to come up with detailed plans within 45 days for sending a 3,000-troop intervention force to Mali.
The Islamists controlling northern Mali have been imposing their strict version of sharia on areas under their control, arresting unveiled women, stoning an unmarried couple to death and amputating suspected thieves' limbs, according to residents and rights groups.
AQIM, Al-Qaeda's North African branch, has for years made Niger a target for its kidnapping operations.
Five humanitarian workers from Niger and one from Chad were abducted Sunday in southeast Niger, on the border with Nigeria.
Nigeria for its part is struggling to combat Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, whose attacks are blamed for the deaths of at least 2,800 people since 2009.
AQIM and Boko Haram are believed to have established links in recent months.