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Two Chinese nationals working for a Chinese mining company in the west of Niger, near the country’s borders with Mali and Burkina Faso, were abducted by armed men late Saturday night as Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella, the governor of Niger’s Tillaberi region, told news agency AFP on Monday. Katiella said the men “have a permit to search for gold,” and that they had “refused to go home” after receiving prior warnings from armed groups in the area. The area, known as the “three borders” zone of Sahel nations, has been a hotbed of jihadist activity, in which Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida and “Islamic State” have carried out attacks in all three countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger). Niger also faces ongoing threats from the group Boko Haram in the south. It is not yet known who was behind the kidnapping.

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