German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday opened a new Bundeswehr camp in the Niger capital of Niamey.
"Niger, like Mali and the other countries of the Sahel region, is part of the European neighborhood, a neighborhood facing unending challenges," von der Leyen said. Niger "is a valuable, reliable and determined partner in the fight against terrorism, organized crime and illegal migration in the region."
During her visit, von der Leyen handed over 53 military transport vehicles to Niger Defense Minister Kalla Moutari as part of an "upgrade initiative" aimed at bolstering the country's military capabilities.
Germany is also developing other defense-related projects in Niger, including building an officer training school and expanding the military section of the capital's airport.
Niger forms part of the G5 Sahel group (G5S), a regional security initiative that includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania. The initiative was born out of regional instability triggered by an Islamist insurgency and coup in Mali in 2012.
Germany's 40 Bundeswehr soldiers stationed in Niger's capital, Niamey, comprise part of the country's contingent for the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
The deployment in Niamey mainly consists of troops from the air force and medical service. More than 13,000 peacekeepers have been deployed as part of the UN mission.
About 1,000 German soldiers are deployed with the mission, with some working on intelligence gathering and support in the region.
In March, Berlin signaled its intention to bolster its contingent in the peacekeeping mission and further support France's counterterrorism force operating the region.
ls/jm (dpa, Reuters, AFP)