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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

NIAMEY, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Suspected Tuareg rebels in Niger abducted a local prefect and a senior security official in a raid on the town of Tanout, government military officers said on Tuesday.

The government sources said the attack, in the town 950 km (590 miles) northeast of the capital Niamey, late on Monday caused deaths and injuries in both the government and rebel ranks, but they gave no more details.

The Tuareg-led rebel Niger Justice Movement (MNJ), which launched an armed revolt in the uranium-rich north a year ago, said its fighters seized the town, killing seven soldiers and police and taking 11 prisoners, including the prefect.

No independent confirmation was immediately available.

The MNJ said on its Web site http://m-n-j.blogspot.com/ the attack was a retaliation against the Tanout prefect whom it accused of ordering local officials to report residents suspected of supporting the rebels.

Tanout lies on the southern edge of Niger's northern Agadez region, a vast area of desert and rugged mountains which contains rich uranium reserves and mines which are the mainstay of the landlocked country's economy.

The Rest @ Reuters Africa.com

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