Niamey – Niger will lift a ban on riding motorcycles in the vast western Tillaberi region that was imposed last year in an effort to combat rising jihadist attacks, the regional governor said on Tuesday.
For many years, the “tri-border” region between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso has been the target of an increasing number of deadly attacks by groups affiliated to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, often carried out by assailants on motorbikes.
But Tillaberi governor Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella told AFP that “the ban on travelling on motorbikes will be lifted from September 1.”
The decision to lift the ban was made in a meeting in Tillaberi on Monday attended by Niger’s Defence Minister Alkassoum Indatou, public television Tele Sahel reported.
According to the channel, significant progress has been made recently on security in the area, leading to calls for lifting the ban. And the government responded favourably, it reported.
Motorbikes are the primary means of transport for people in the Tillaberi region, a vast area of 100 000 square kilometres where different ethnic groups, such as Djerma, Fulani, Tuareg and Hausa, live.
In a bid to stem the violence that has flared up in the region since 2017, the authorities have declared a state of emergency and in January 2020 introduced the motorcycle ban, as well as regulating the sale of fuel and shutting down markets suspected of feeding the armed groups and hiding their informants.
The tougher security measures – which have sparked sometimes violent protests – “have had economic repercussions that people find difficult to bear,” Tillaberi MPs said last week.
“The economy of the region is idling” and “fuelling an exodus of able-bodied workers”, which in turn “leads to youth unemployment and their recruitment by terrorists,” the MPs said.
Instead of motorbikes, attackers were now using pushbikes and camels, they said.
On Friday, an attack by suspected jihadists on a village in the tri-border region left 19 people dead and two injured, Niger’s interior ministry said.
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