15 Soldiers Killed In Niger ‘terrorist’ attack: govt

Maradi State, Niger.December 12, 2019. Niger Army soldier takes a breather during security patrol near the Nigerian border in Maradi State. The lawless borders with Nigeria and Mali continue to be hotbeds for Islamic Jihadist insurgents and marauding local militias who, in the last few months, have attacked and killed over 250 soldiers from the Niger Army. (Photo by Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

Niger’s government said Wednesday that 15 of its soldiers were killed in a “terrorist attack” near the border with Mali, bringing to 31 the number of troops killed in four days.

Niger’s defence ministry said “heavily armed men” had attacked troops serving under the anti-jihadist Almahaou (“whirlwind”) operation near the town of Banibangou in the Tillaberi region on Tuesday afternoon.

Four more soldiers were injured in the attack, the ministry said, with search operations continuing.

“On the enemy’s side, several terrorists were killed and equipment destroyed,” it added in a statement, without giving further details on the circumstances of the attack.

Tillaberi is located in the flashpoint “tri-border” region between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, the site of frequent bloody attacks by jihadist groups.

On Saturday, 16 Nigerien soldiers were killed and another reported missing after armed men attacked a patrol in the Tahoua region, also close to Mali.

The vast desert region, east of Tillaberi, is similarly a regular target for jihadists who target civilians as well as troops.

On March 21, several hamlets in Tahoua’s Tillia area were struck by coordinated attacks that left 141 people dead, according to the official toll — the most deadly presumed jihadist assault in Niger in years.

Niger is struggling with both the spillover of Nigeria’s Boko Haram extremist movement in its southeast, and that of jihadists affiliated with the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda in its west.

It is the world’s poorest nation, according to the UN’s development rankings for 189 countries.