A military outpost in Niger’s Diffa region that has long been a target of jihadist fighters came under major attack overnight, local sources said Tuesday, with an unknown number of troops killed.
The attack on the Blabrine base took place Monday at around 11 pm, according to Mara Mamadou, a civil society official in Diffa, adding that the assailants made off with property, “and some men were killed.”
A local elected official confirmed the attack by “gunmen, probably Boko Haram fighters”, adding that they left “many dead”.
The Blabrine base is some 20 kilometres (12 miles) northeast of Diffa town in the remote southeastern region near Lake Chad, where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria converge.
Diffa, a city of 200,000 near the Nigerian border, has been repeatedly attacked.
The region of the poor Sahel country borders Nigeria, the birthplace of Boko Haram.
It shelters some 300,000 refugees from Nigeria as well as internally displaced people, according to UN figures.
In October last year, 12 Niger troops were killed at Blabrine, according to the defence ministry.
Several violent clashes have pitted the army against Islamist fighters in the region since the start of May.
On May 13, Niamey said 75 Boko Haram combattants had been killed in southeast Niger and across the border in Nigeria.
A propaganda video released by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a Boko Haram splinter group affiliated to the so-called Islamic State, purported to show heavily armed insurgents storm an army camp following sustained fighting and heavy weapons fire on May 3.
Jihadists carried out another attack in the same area on Saturday.
Boko Haram’s insurgency has claimed more than 36,000 lives since it began in northeastern Nigeria in 2009 and displaced nearly two million from their homes.
Another jihadist group, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS), carries out frequent attacks in Niger’s west on its borders with Mali and Burkina Faso.
The countries around Lake Chad, together with Benin, have set up a combined group, the Multinational Joint Task Force, to fight the jihadists.