Eleven soldiers were killed and nine went missing on Friday following a jihadist attack on an army post in Dagne, western Niger, days after 69 civilians were killed, the government said.
11 soldiers were killed and one was wounded in the attack by “a column of heavily armed terrorists in several vehicles and dozens of motorcycles,” according to a Defense Ministry statement read on public television.
“After fierce fighting, the enemy column was forced to retreat with its dead and wounded, adding that air and ground reinforcements sent to the area are continuing in the area”, the statement said.
Target troops were deployed to ensure the safety of thousands of villagers who had returned to their communities after previous killings.
Earlier this week at least 69 people, including a local mayor, were killed in an attack in the country’s volatile tri-border region with Burkina Faso and Mali.
The attack took place on Tuesday in the village of Adab-Dab, about 55 kilometers (32 miles) from Banibangou in the western region of Tilberi, but was only confirmed by the government on Thursday.
The government announced a two-day national morning from Friday.
Local sources said a defense force riding a motorcycle was attacked by “heavily armed members of the ISGS (Islamic State in the Greater Sahara)”, who were also on motorbikes.
Another source said Tuesday’s attack was targeted by a local anti-jihadist defense force called Vigilance Committees, led by the mayor of Banibangou district.
A former mayor said the defense force was recently set up after locals attacked farm workers in remote fields by highly mobile jihadists.
Niger, the world’s poorest country by United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) benchmarks, is facing jihadist insurgency along its western border with Mali and Burkina Faso and on its southeastern border with Nigeria.
The western insurgency started with infiltration in 2015. Bloodshed increased in 2017, with massacres perpetrated by groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
Human Rights Watch estimated in August that more than 420 civilians have been killed in western Niger since the start of the year.