Soldiers wounded, dozens of militias killed in Niger clash
Fighting in southeastern Niger has left 10 soldiers wounded and several dozen militia fighters dead, the government said.
Extremists from the Boko Haram group on Tuesday attacked a special intervention battalion positioned at the airport in N’Guigmi, a garrison town in the Diffa region near the border with Nigeria, Niger’s defence ministry said.
The clash, which started around 01:50 am, lasted about 20 minutes before the attackers were routed towards the banks of Lake Chad, the ministry said in a statement late Tuesday.
With air support, the attackers were located as they got into pirogue canoes on the lake, it added.
Read:29 Niger soldiers killed by suspected militias
Several dozen “terrorists” were “neutralised” through “surgical” air strikes, the statement said.
Lake Chad, a vast expense of water and marshland, straddles the borders of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
It has been the site of frequent attacks from the fighters of Boko Haram as well as Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap.
This week’s clash is the worst reported between the army and militias after several months of calm in the region, the scene of attacks since 2015.
In June, seven soldiers were killed after their vehicle hit a landmine in the Diffa region.
The area also has thousands of internally displaced people and Nigerian refugees dependant on humanitarian organisations and the local population who face food shortages due to harvests hit by drought, regional authorities say.
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Niger, which has been led by military leaders since a July 26 coup, is one of the most vulnerable nations in the world.
It is also facing a deadly militia insurgency in the west near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso.