Rebels in Niger claim kidnapping UN envoy from Canada (Lead)

December 16th, 2008 - 11:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Dec 16 (IANS) A rebel group in the African nation of Niger has confirmed that it is holding the kidnapped Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, his aide and driver. The Front des Forces de Redressement said on its website that the Canadian UN envoy was seized during a commando operation near the capital city of Niamey Sunday.

UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told the Canadian media: “We will have to study any communications to see whether they can be verified or whether they’re reliable.”

Sixtyfour-year-old Robert Fowler, who was appointed a special envoy to Niger by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last July, went missing Sunday.

He was in Niger to meet with governmental and non-governmental officials, UN sources said.

A landlocked former French colony, Niger has been plagued by political unrest for years.

A former Canadian deputy minister and the country’s ambassador to Italy, Fowler was travelling with his aide Luis Guay and a driver when they disappeared near the capital city of Niamey.

The car was found abandoned near the capital city, with no clues to its three occupants.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday their consular officials both in the capital of Niger as well as in other regional offices are working with local and UN officials to end the crisis.

“I want to assure family, friends and all Canadians that we will do everything we can to resolve the situation successfully,” the minister said.

An expert in public policy, Fowler has also served as the UN ambassador and advised many Canadian prime ministers on foreign policy affairs.

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