Hundreds of terrorists targeted a Niger military camp with shelling and mortars near the border with Mali. In this attack, 71 soldiers were killed, the Ministry of Defense said Wednesday. The attack on Niger’s military in Inates in the western Tillaberi area on Tuesday was the worst since the Islamist militant insurgency of the country began in 2015.
“Sadly, we regret to announce the following toll: 71 military personnel killed, 12 injured. Others missing,” the defence ministry said in a statement aired on national television.
The attack was carried out by “heavily armed terrorists estimated to number many hundreds”, the statement said, adding that “a substantial number of terrorists were neutralised”.
The attack lasted three hours, combining artillery fire with “the use of kamikaze vehicles by the enemy”.
An earlier toll from a source of security put more than 60 killed in the assault.
“The terrorists bombarded the camp with shelling and mortars,” that source said. “The explosions from ammunition and fuel were the cause of the heavy toll.”
The source did not say which group was responsible for the deadly assault.
Niger forces are fighting on the southeast border with Nigeria against Boko Haram militants, and jihadists in the west near Mali and Libya are allied with the Islamic State. President Issoufou Mahamadou of Niger cut off a visit to Egypt’s peace and security conference to return to Niamey, the presidency said on Twitter.
French President Emmanuel Macron Postpone’s Meeting
Army reinforcements were hurried to the scene and the circumstance on Wednesday was “under control,” the Ministry of Defense said, emphasizing that a search was underway for the assailants, though they had “fled beyond our borders.”
The assault on Tuesday forced French President Emmanuel Macron to postpone next week’s meeting in the southwestern French town of Pau, where he and five Sahel leaders had to discuss security in the region. The meeting will take place at the beginning of next year.
G5 Niger is anti-jihadist task force of five nations. It is in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Chad in 2014. The defense ministry states that three Niger soldiers and 14 militants death on Monday is an attack on another military post in Agando in the western Tahoua region.
In a dozen 4×4 vehicles, heavily armed “terrorists” led the attack on the military post in Tahoua early Monday morning, the ministry statement said. Niger’s ministerial council has extended an emergency situation in effect in several departments since 2017 for another three months to counter jihadist attacks, giving additional powers to security forces.
Thousands of civilians and soldiers have died in violence. This is throughout the vast Sahel region that started with the uprising of armed Islamists in northern Mali in 2012. Since then, the fighting has spread to Mali’s middle and neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. Notwithstanding the 4,500 French troops deployed as part of Operation Barkhane to support local forces in the region, attacks continue.
Thirteen French soldiers killed last month in Mali. This was when two helicopters crashed in the restive north of the country. It is the worst single loss for the French military in nearly four decades, during an operation against jihadists.
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