It has now been two weeks since Canadians Robert Fowler, Louis Guay, and a third (possibly fourth) person disappeared in Niger, on the road back to Niamey after a private visit to a Canadian-run gold mine across the Niger river, near Samira. Their UN marked car was found with the engine running, an indicator on, with the doors open and three cell phones sitting on the seat.
There was a lot of initial confusion over where exactly the car was found and whether they had even made it to the mine, but this has been cleared up, for the most part. The two remaining puzzles are:
1. The initial posting by the FFR, a splinter cell of the Tuareg rebel group MNJ, claiming that they had kidnapped four people, including Fowler and Guay. This claim was quickly retracted (though the initial post was not removed from the FFR blog… odd that).
2. The exact status of Fowler’s mission and what he was doing. The UN has said he was an official envoy, Nigerien officials said he wasn’t, then a local official in Niamey said he was.
I had a brief email exchange with an MNJ representative last week, and he swore that the Nigerien government was responsible. He did not elaborate on why he thought this, or what the motivation could be.
But for over a week now, there has been almost complete silence. The only real news I’ve seen is in today’s French-language AP story, in which the Canadian embassy in Cote D’Ivoire has apparently confirmed that the ambassador, Isabelle Massip, is now in Niger. Meanwhile, the CBC dropped the story completely after a few days, and reporters I’ve spoken with there say they have been ordered not to touch it.