On Friday, January 7, two French nationals were abducted at gunpoint from a crowded bar/restaurant in Niamey, Niger. The bar/restaurant is very popular with Westerners and is frequented by BU students in Niger. The kidnappers fled with their victims toward the border of Mali, pursued by Nigerien and French troops. Both victims ultimately died, reportedly at the hands of their kidnappers. No one has claimed responsibility so far, but the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for similar acts in the past.
This was the first kidnapping of its kind in Niamey. While the US State Department has warned against travel to other parts of Niger because of the risk of this crime, Niamey had been seen as comparatively safe. The US Embassy has now imposed strict limits on its personnel there, including a nightly curfew and a ban on all travel outside of Niamey.
University officials have decided that the heightened level of risk in Niamey is unacceptable. For that reason, and with real sadness, we are cancelling the Niger program for Spring 2011, scheduled to begin on January 20, and for the foreseeable future.
Because of the late date, it will be very difficult if not impossible for students to find another study abroad program for spring semester. International Programs will do whatever we can to help students return to campus and will work with the Registrar and with Housing on behalf of each student. Students should call us at 617-353-9888.
We are very sorry to take this action. The BU program in Niger has always been one of the true stars of BU’s programs abroad. However, the safety and well-being of our students and staff must always be our primary concern.