- A brutal attack, which was organized by Islamic extremists in western Niger, has led to the tragic loss of at least a dozen soldiers, while seven others were injured, as confirmed by the nation’s military leadership.
- The soldiers were targeted while on a mission in Kandadji, a town located in Tillaberi district.
- After the attack, the wounded soldiers were rushed to military hospitals for medical treatment.
An attack by Islamist extremists in western Niger has killed at least a dozen soldiers and wounded seven others, the West African nation’s military junta said.
The soldiers were on a mission in the town of Kandaji in the Tillaberi region when hundreds of jihadists on motorcycles attacked them on Thursday, General Salifu Modi, Niger’s defense minister, said in a statement. The injured were taken to military hospitals, the statement said.
The junta claimed that military personnel killed a hundred extremists and destroyed their motorcycles and weapons. The Associated Press could not independently verify the claim.
Niger has been battling a jihadist insurgency linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State for years. Attacks have increased since rebel soldiers overthrew the country’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazum, in July.
In the month since the junta took power, violence primarily linked to extremists has increased by more than 40 percent, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Events Data Project. Jihadist attacks targeting civilians quadrupled in August compared to the previous month, and attacks on security forces increased in the Tillaberi region, killing at least 40 soldiers, the project said.
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Niger was seen as one of the last democratic countries in Africa’s Sahel region that Western nations could work with to defeat the jihadist insurgency in the vast sub-Saharan desert. The United States, France and other European countries have given hundreds of millions of dollars to support the Nigerian military.
Amid rising anti-French sentiment in its former colony, French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the withdrawal of his country’s 1,500 troops stationed in Niger by the end of the year. France’s ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte, left the country this week after a months-long standoff with the junta, which had ordered him out.
The loss of support from France and possibly the United States will make it harder for the junta to fend off the jihadists, conflict analysts believe.
“It is quite predictable that we are seeing more and more jihadi operations,” said Wassim Nasr, a journalist and senior researcher at the Soufan Center.
“There is no longer support from the French either by air or by special forces,” he said. “Once the Nigerien forces there lose the support of the allies, it is very difficult to sustain them and keep them on the ground.”
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Thursday’s attack took place in an area where the Islamic State group operates and where French special operations forces were actively supporting Niger’s army, Nasr said.
The security vacuum left by the French also brought further rival jihadist groups together, he said.