In a tragic incident on Thursday, suspected jihadists launched an attack in western Niger, resulting in the deaths of seven soldiers. Additionally, five soldiers lost their lives in a traffic accident that occurred during an intervention in response to the attack. The attack took place in the Tillabéri region, where an anti-jihadist unit was on a security mission in Kandadji. The Defense Minister and General Salifou Mody, appointed by the military regime that emerged from a coup, confirmed the casualties in a statement.
According to General Mody, the unit was violently attacked by several hundred terrorists. The seven soldiers died in combat, and the subsequent intervention led to the traffic accident, claiming the lives of five more soldiers. Seven individuals sustained injuries and were evacuated to a hospital for treatment.
The attackers’ motorcycles and weapons were destroyed in the Tijiane area, located 20 kilometers northeast of Ayorou in the same region. The defense forces have launched a combing operation to track down the enemy and ensure the safety of the area.
Niger has been grappling with jihadist violence from groups such as Boko Haram and its splinter group, Iswap (Islamic State in West Africa), particularly in the southeastern part of the country. In the western region, which includes the Tillabéri region, Niger faces similar violence in the “three borders” zone shared with Burkina Faso and Mali. This area has become a stronghold for Sahelian jihadists affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Since the coup on July 26, which saw the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum, the security situation in Niger has deteriorated. Mid-August witnessed one of the deadliest attacks since the coup, with suspected jihadists killing at least 17 Nigerien soldiers and injuring 20 near the Niger-Burkina Faso border.
In response to the escalating security situation, Niger’s military regime has called for the departure of approximately 1,500 French soldiers who have been assisting in the fight against jihadism. French President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that the French troops would be withdrawn by the end of the year, leading to a negotiation between the two countries. Niger’s military regime emphasized the need for a negotiated framework for the withdrawal of French forces.
The United States, which has 1,100 troops deployed in Niger, is also evaluating its options regarding a possible withdrawal.
In light of these developments, Niger’s military regime, along with neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, both led by soldiers who came to power through coups, have established the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) to enhance defense cooperation and seek additional allies in their fight against jihadist groups.