Canadian U.N. envoy missing in Niger: U.N. officials

Mon Dec 15, 2008 5:49pm EST
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By Patrick Worsnip

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A former Canadian diplomat who serves as U.N. special envoy to Niger has gone missing in the West African state in the bandit-infested Sahel region, U.N. officials said on Monday.

The officials said the U.N. vehicle in which envoy Robert Fowler, a Canadian aide whom they declined to identify and a local driver were traveling was found abandoned on Sunday evening some 30 miles northeast of the capital Niamey.

The vehicle's engine was still running, they said.

"We don't know whether we are dealing with a hostage situation," said Farhan Haq, a U.N. spokesman. "Authorities in Niger are trying to discover (Fowler's) whereabouts."

Fowler is based in Canada but was visiting Niger for meetings with officials there, U.N. officials said.

Niger's Foreign Ministry said, however, that Fowler had arrived in the country last week on a private visit and had left Niamey on Sunday morning without informing the Niger authorities.

In a statement broadcast on state television, the ministry said it had been established that Fowler had visited Samira, a gold-mining locality in the area, before he went missing.

"The ministry has absolutely no idea as to the motive for the special representative's disappearance," the statement said, adding that the country's security forces had been mobilized.   Continued...