Niger’s defense ministry on Wednesday, October 30 said 12 soldiers were killed in a predawn raid on a military base in the southeastern Diffa region, which has long been a target of Nigeria-based Islamist fighters.
Another eight soldiers were wounded in the attack on the Blabrine military unit according to a provisional toll, the ministry said in statement read on state radio.
The attack was “very probably” carried out by Boko Haram, the statement added.
“The Blabrine military unit was targeted last night. The situation is ongoing,” a municipal source earlier told AFP on condition of anonymity. The source said the raid began at around 3:00 a.m.
“There have been deaths and military equipment has been torched,” a senior official in Diffa said.
An earlier RFI report said a provisional assessment had counted 12 soldiers killed and five wounded, and cited a security source as claiming that fighters loyal to Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau were responsible.
Blabrine is around 20 km
The region is home to 120,000 refugees fleeing violence in Nigeria, as well as 110,000 internally desplaced Nigerien people, according to U.N. data released this month. It has also seen flooding after heavy rains caused the Komadougou Yobe river to burst its banks, affecting at least 40,000 people, the government has said.
In recent months, ISIS has frequently claimed that fighters from its Islamic State West Africa Province affiliate have carried out attacks in Diffa.
The jihadist group known as Boko Haram began its bloody insurgency in northeastern Nigeria in 2009, but it has since spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military response.
Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016. One, led by long-time leader Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians. Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in March 2015, but ISIS central only gives formal backing to the ISWAP faction. ISWAP largely focuses on attacking military and government targets.
The U.S. assesses that Boko Haram and ISWAP are responsible for more than 35,000 deaths since 2011. More than two million people have been displaced by the conflict, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis in the region.
With reporting from AFP