The U.S. Department of State is helping Niger build a new prison. Last summer, a number of terrorists escaped from a jail in the capital Niamey.
State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs—INL for short—wants to hire an architect to design the 21-acre detention center. The new facility is expected to house between 700 and 1,000 male, female and juvenile prisoners.
The campus will also include staff housing, a barracks and a training center. INL plans to help train Nigerien personnel to run the penitentiary once it is completed.
American’s Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership program is funding the project. The goal is to help “the Nigeriens safely, securely and humanely operate corrections facilities,” according to State Department officials.
State also wants to promote the rule of law in Niger to protect human rights. But the correctional center will “reflect both international best practices and local realities,” officials said.
The lockup is just one part of a larger effort as well. The U.S. wants to help Niger “effectively incarcerate convicted and suspected terrorists and other criminals” in the future.
INL recently helped Nigerien authorities visit Morocco to learn about building and managing modern jails according to officials. The Department of Defense has also been working with American diplomats to send military aid to Niger, including the Cessna aircraft seen below.
State and INL have been especially interested in the Nigerien correctional system since at least last year. In June 2013, 22 inmates escaped custody and killed three guards in the process.
America had a major interest in one of the escapees: Alhassane Ould Mohamed. Mohamed and another man are accused of killing an American military attache and wounding a U.S. Marine in a brazen attack more than a decade ago.
Mohamed was detained in Mali soon thereafter, but escaped in 2002. Eight years later, he was arrested again in Niger and convicted of killing four Saudi Arabian tourists.
Last year, French forces in Mali captured Mohamed after his latest jailbreak. The Federal Bureau of Investigation quietly whisked the serial fugitive back to the States and arraigned him in a federal court in March.
But Mohamed was just one man. The rest of the prisoners who escaped in Niger may have also included members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and Boko Haram.
All of these groups are serious threats to both governments and civilians in the region. The development of functional and impartial judicial systems is also a key element in stopping the violence.
But convicting terrorists in court is meaningless if they don’t stay behind bars.
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