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Niger orders expulsion of Arabs

BBC | October 24 2006

The government of Niger has ordered around 150,000 Arabs who live in the east of the country to leave.

Most of the Arabs, known as Mahamid, are nomads who have fled conflict in Chad. A BBC correspondent says many have lived in Niger for decades.

The governor of Diffa State, where most of the Mahamid live, told them it was "high time" to pack and return to Chad.

No reason for the order has been given, but government officials are meeting local elders in the capital, Niamey.

The BBC Idy Baraou in Niamey says many Mahamid are citizens of Niger and hold senior positions in the army, government and business.

Others look after camels and donkeys around Lake Chad.

But other communities in Niger often accuse the Mahamid of theft and rape.

Our correspondent says police have rounded up several hundred Mahamid at Kabalewa village, 75 km east of Diffa.

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