November 5, 2010 / 1:58 PM / 10 years ago

Niger sacks mines minister in latest cabinet change

NIAMEY, Nov 5 (Reuters) - The head of Niger’s junta fired his mines minister, according to a decree issued on Friday, extending a wave of sackings and arrests near the top of the West African country’s government.

Energy and Mines Minister Souleymane Mamadou Abba will be replaced by Djibo Salmou Gourouza Magagi, formerly the minister of internal affairs, according to the decree, which gave no reason for the change.

Niger’s junta, preparing to hand power back to civilians through elections set for January, said last month it had put down a coup attempt and arrested some officers including the second-in-command Colonel Abdoulaye Badie.

Niger’s minister of equipment, Colonel Amadou Diallo, was also sacked in October and later arrested.

The country has been run by soldiers since a February coup, but junta leader General Salou Djibo has vowed to step aside for an elected president no later than April 2011 and has been pursuing an aggressive anti-corruption agenda in the meantime.

Niger is the largest supplier of uranium to France’s nuclear sector and its resource riches have attracted billions of dollars in planned mining and energy investments.

But it remains one of the world’s poorest nations amid decades of instability and is home to growing al Qaeda-linked operations in its northern desert region. Five French nationals were kidnapped in Niger in September by al Qaeda’s North African wing, including one worker from French nuclear firm Areva. (Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; writing by Richard Valdmanis)

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