At least 71 soldiers were killed and twelve others sustained injuries in a deadly terror attack that targeted an army base camp in the western part of Niger in West Africa, near the Mali border on Tuesday.
The attack took place when several hundred heavily armed militants ambushed soldiers at an outpost in Inates, a village in western Nigeria, CNN reported quoting defence minister Issoufou Katambe.
Fierce fighting followed and a “substantial number of the terrorists were neutralized,” Katambe added.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has claimed responsibility for the attacks.Taking to social media, the terror group said that it managed to seize the military base for several hours and that it stole weapons and ammunition, including several tanks. The group, however, did not provide any evidence to support its claim.
According to the presidency’s official Twitter handle, President Mahamadou Issoufou who was in Egypt at the time the “tragedy” took place had to cut off his trip to return home.
The attack came just days ahead of a summit in France between President Emmanuel Macron and leaders of five West African leaders to discuss the deteriorating security in the region.
That meeting has now been postponed to early 2020, according to a Reuters report.
Niger is a member of the G5 Sahel force of troops from Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Chad set up in 2014 to tackle insecurity.
The US and France have deployed soldiers to Niger to assist local troops with intelligence gathering and operations as it battles Boko Haram and al Qaeda militantsin the region. Niger also shares a border with Mali, where an al Qaeda affiliate and other Islamist groups thrive in the vast desert.
The region has been beset by violence from suspected Islamist militant groups over in recent months. Thirteen French soldiers were killed in a crash involving two helicopters during an operation against jihadists fighters in Mali last month.
At least 53 soldiers died in a terror attack on a military camp in the country’s north-east in November.