7 civilians killed in Niger army fire fight with rebels

Seven civilians were killed during a battle between army and rebel forces in northern Niger over the weekend, government officials said Tuesday. In a statement read on state radio, Niger's defense minister said the civilians were in four vehicles that were caught in the middle of a fire fight between army and rebel forces Sunday in the region of Tiguidit - about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of the regional capital of Agadez. The statement said a rebel fighter was also killed, and one army soldier injured. Sporadic clashes have broken out across Niger's volatile northern desert this year as groups claiming to represent a disenfranchised ethnic Tuareg minority combat a government anxious to hold onto control of the uranium-rich region.