- The raid began 1 PM (1200 GMT), “when terrorist elements on board several vehicles and motorcycles" attacked a military post outpost in Chinagodrar.
- “Air intervention by our allies, especially the French, played a decisive role,” the source said.
- Niger and its neighbors have been hit by an upsurge of violence by Islamic militants in West Africa.
Twenty-five soldiers have been killed in a suspected jihadist attack on a military camp in Niger along the western border with Mali, Niger’s army has confirmed. The army has said that more than 60 militants were also killed when the army responded backed up French air strikes.
The raid began 1 PM (1200 GMT), “when terrorist elements on board several vehicles and motorcycles” attacked a military post outpost in Chinagodrar, in the western Tillaberi region, the defense ministry said in a press release. The ministry’s provisional assessment was 25 dead and six injured on the “friendly side,” and “63 terrorists neutralized,” and several motorcycles burned, on the enemy side.
The heavily armed militants arrived in “large number” by motorbikes and cars, a Nigerien security source told the AFP news agency. “Air intervention by our allies, especially the French, played a decisive role,” the source said. The US has a drone base in Agadez, a town in Niger from where it launches air operations.
The attack in Chinagodrar base, about 209 kilometers (130) miles north of the capital, Niamey, comes just days before France hosts West African leaders to assess military operations in Sahel region. France has thousands of troops in the region that are helping fight the jihadists.
This week, the United Nations envoy for West Africa and the Sahel described “a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilians and military targets” in the region. The envoy, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, told the United Nations Security Council that terrorist attacks have increased fivefold in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger since 2016. More than 4,000 deaths were reported in 2019 compared with 770 deaths in 2016, he said.
Niger is a member of the French-backed G5 Sahel group, a taskforce created by the region’s leaders in 2014, which aims to fight the militants. The group includes Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad. Despite the creation and the presence of 4,500 French soldiers, and more than 14,000 United Nations peacekeepers, the jihadist groups have stepped up their attacks. Groups allied to both the Islamic State group al-Qaeda are active in Niger.
The attacks have been on the rise despite efforts by international forces to stop them. Last month, 71 soldiers were killed in an ambush at another military post about 150 kilometers west of Chinagadror. The Islamic State group in the region claimed responsibility. It was considered the deadliest attack on the Nigerien army since the insurgency began. In October 2017, four US soldiers and five Nigerien soldiers were killed in a jihadist ambush in Tongo Tongo, a village in Mali frontier not far from Ates.
Niger and its neighbors have been hit by an upsurge of violence by Islamic militants in West Africa. The region has been in crisis since 2012, when ethnic Tuareg rebels and loosely-aligned seized the northern two thirds of Mali, forcing France to intervene the next year. The jihadists have since regrouped and expanded their range of influence.