Former MP fingered in assassination plot

Niamey - Niger's ex-tourism minister Rhissa Ag Boula, a key figure in the 1990s rebellion of the West African state's northern Tuareg nomads, has been indicted and jailed for his alleged role in the political killing of a ruling party militant, his lawyer said on Friday.

"The judge notified me that he was indicted Thursday and taken into custody but I don't know where they took him," Moussa Coulibaly said.

"I have yet to see him or to see his file," the lawyer said, adding that it was likely that Ag Boula would sit in jail for at least two years until his case was heard.

Ag Boula was sacked February 13 from his post atop the tourism and handicrafts ministry, which he had held for eight years after the 1991-95 Tuareg rebellion was concluded with a peace pact that brought him into government.

He was arrested two days later and detained by military police in Niamey, accused of complicity in the murder of Adam Amangue, a militant in President Mamadou Tandja's ruling National Movement for Society and Development.

Amangue, 26, was ambushed late January 26 after leaving a party meeting and was found dead with three gunshots to the head in Tchirozerine in the northern Agadez district that is also the home province of Ag Boula.

A government investigation has promised a five-million CFA franc (about R70 000) reward for any information that will lead to the capture and conviction of those involved.

Niamey police have already arrested Amadou Ibrahim, alias Bambino, and Alassane Alabo, while Rhissa Attaher, alias Saidane, was handed over to authorities by a family member, local media reported.

All three have named Ag Boula as an accomplice, though he has continued to protest his innocence and said he only resigned his post so as not to embarrass the government.

"I am not a killer," he said at a press conference February 15. "I was a combatant at one stage in my life, but I signed the peace agreement, and it is not now that I am coming to upset it."

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