At least 17 Niger soldiers have been killed in an attack by armed groups near the border with Mali, the country’s Ministry of Defence said.
According to a statement released late on Tuesday, “a detachment of the Nigerien Armed Forces (FAN) moving between Boni and Torodi was the victim of a terrorist ambush near the town of Koutougou [52km southwest of Torodi]”.
It added that another 20 soldiers had been injured, with all of them evacuated to Niamey, the capital.
More than 100 assailants were “neutralised” during their retreat, the army said.
In the last decade, the border area where central Mali, northern Burkina Faso and western Niger converge has become the epicentre of violence by armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) in the Sahel region.
Anger at the bloodshed has fuelled military takeovers in all three countries since 2020, with Niger the latest to fall to a coup on July 26 when President Mohamed Bazoum was removed.
Southeast Niger is also the target of armed groups crossing from northeastern Nigeria – the cradle of a campaign initiated by Boko Haram in 2010.
The coup leaders had said Bazoum’s ouster was due to the insecurity in the country was “due to the deteriorating security situation and bad governance”.
But Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Abuja in nearby Nigeria, said the Nigerien military government’s revoking of agreements with French military and suspension of aid by Niamey’s other partners “makes life more difficult”.
“It will be difficult now for Niger to source for equipment, for weaponry and deal with the rising cases of attacks by these armed groups in the Sahel … it may have to rely on countries like Mali and Burkina Faso for expertise and also from the mercenary groups that have been operating in these two countries,” he said on Wednesday.
“But how much can they give? How long will that be? They too are facing a similar problem,” Idris added.