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    A National Program in Niger Encouraged Jihadis to Defect. The Coup Put Its Future in Jeopardy

    A National Program in Niger Encouraged Jihadis to Defect. The Coup Put Its Future in Jeopardy

    , Niger — It took months of convincing before the former jihadi commander decided to defect, trading in his guns and wealth for amnesty and a chance to with his family.

    Before leaving the Islamic State group, Mouhamadou Ibrahim was told by Niger's government that his wife and children would be cared for, that he'd be welcomed into the community and that he would not face charges, as long as he provided intelligence about the militants and urged other jihadis to come home.

    But those promises were made before mutinous soldiers ousted Niger's democratically elected president, putting the national program to reintegrate former jihadis into society at risk. For Ibrahim, 40, the coup has upended months of work and the relationships he built with Niger's security forces — and now he wonders whether he should return to fight with the extremists.

    Since President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown by members of his presidential guard in July, the future of the program has been unclear. The regime hasn't indicated whether it will continue the efforts, jeopardizing the fate of hundreds of former jihadis who returned and rely on government support. The initiative was put in place in 2016 under Bazoum, then interior minister, to stem the violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that has for years plagued parts of Niger and the wider Sahel region, an expansive area south of the Sahara Desert.

    About 1,000…

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