Niger mourns 71 soldiers following deadly terrorist attack

According to official figures, 71 soldiers were killed during a terrorist attack on a military base located in Inates, in the Tillaberi region of Niger near the Malian border on 11 December 2019. Twelve soldiers were wounded and 30 are missing. This is the deadliest attack on security forces in Niger’s history. The government declared three days of national mourning. The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), originally a branch of Boko Haram in Nigeria, claimed responsibility for the attack. Demonstrating their solidarity, G5 Sahel leaders gathered at an extra-ordinary summit in Niamey on 15 December 2019 to pay homage to the soldiers who were killed. They called for closer co-operation and more international support in the fight against the Islamist threat. According to Niger’s defence ministry, the attack was conducted by “heavily armed terrorists estimated to number many hundreds.” The fighting lasted three hours, combining shelling and artillery fire with the use of kamikaze vehicles. “The terrorist threat against the Sahel countries is getting worse,” declared Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou. “These endless attacks carried out by terrorist groups in our region remind us not only of the gravity of the situation, but also the urgency for us to work more closely together,” said Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, recalling the need to help the G5 Sahel Joint Force reach its full operational capacity as soon as possible. “Terrorists have become true professionals in the art of warfare. While attacking our troops, terrorists are also attacking our alliances. They are working hard to find intermediaries within communities to denounce the presence of the allied troops who fight at our sides. Those who play their games consciously or unconsciously, those who attack our alliances, those who want defeat the are doing something far worse than attacking men. We need to build public awareness about this problem in all of our countries”. While jihadists mostly attack army outposts to steal weapons, they also expand the areas under their control. Since September 2019, the Islamist insurgency has killed more than 230 soldiers in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The G5 Sahel-France summit in Pau was postponed to 13 January 2020. In addition to the French-led Barkhane operation, the United States is also scaling up its military co-operation with Niger by providing equipment (armoured vehicles, radio systems, etc.) and in-country support worth USD 21 million, including through its armed drones that can track down jihadists.