Niger has deleted 1.7 million mobile phone numbers, according to a report by Reuters. The African country says it is an attempt to improve security, and affects nearly all carriers operating in Niger to a degree. The country has about 5.4 million mobile customers, leaving nearly one third of them without a number.
Niger telecoms regulations committee ARTP asked that all citizens identify themselves by a November 24th deadline, which was meant to “fight against various forms of insecurity.” Bharti Airtel was the worst affected carrier, with 916,701 customers losing their numbers. Orange, a French provider operating in Niger, lost 628,407 numbers. Two other carriers were also affected, but not nearly as bad.
The move comes when Niger arrested a known terrorist who was planning attacks in the capital city of Niamey. The man was stopped when attempting to board a bus for Mali, where French forces had a terrorist arrest of their own. The man arrested by the French was wanted in Niger for killing a U.S. diplomat and Saudi tourists, and has been sought by the FBI since those attacks.
It’s not yet known if information given by either arrestee caused Niger to delete mobile numbers, or if this is part of some effort to free up unused profiles. It could also be at the behest of carriers, though we can’t imagine why they’d do that. Given the geography of Niger, we’d like to think they’re just taking all necessary precautions to avoid further conflict.