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Africa already lives a difficult political environment. Now an attack in Niger near the Malian border killed at least 17 soldiers and injured other 20. The army neutralized 100 attackers. The attack took place on Thursday, near the town of Koutugou, between Boni and Torodi. This attack is the first since the coup.
The Islamic State branch in the Great Sahara also carried out attacks in Dessa and Mehana, in southern Niger. These killed 31 people and took place on Tuesday’s afternoon.
The Sahel region, including the border area of Central Mali, Northern Burkina Faso, and Western Niger, has seen an increase in jihadist activity related both to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. This has killed thousands of people and forced millions to flee their homes. Food shortages have also been happening because of the jihadi activity. All this has increased with the political crisis caused by the July 26th coup. The area has seen continous attacks against military and civilian personnel.
The attack comes in the midst of turmoil in Niger because of the July 26th coup d’etat, and it is the first since then. Indeed, the deteroriating security panorama was used as an excuse by the military to take power. This attack is also the first major attack in six months against the Nigerien army. The soldiers claimed frustration by the lack of action against jihadism. Civilian governments in Sahelian countries have been accused of inability to deal with terrorism.
General Abdourahmen Tchiani, leader of the military junta, mentioned that his move was necessary to defeat the insurgency. However, it has been claimed that under the deposed President, Mohamed Bazoum, the insurgency was declining. He tried to engage with Islamists and with the communities where they were present.
The attack is considered an escalation of jihadism. Niger was formerly considered a partner of the West in the fight against terror. Western powers fear that the coup could weaken this alliance against these groups in the Sahel.
The attack was an ambush, and it took place almost 60km from the capital, Niamey.
“The swift reaction of the soldiers and the air-land response at the scene of the skirmish enabled the enemy to be dealt with”,
stated the defence ministry.
The casualties were evacuated to Niamey.
Tuesday’s attacks by ISIS happened in villages of Tomare, Issile, Gaberi and Kogoria.
The ECOWAS, or Economic Community of West African States, condemned the attack and called on Nigerien authorities to restore constitutional order. This way, they can focus on security, which has been deteriorating since the coup took place.
The attacks have raised concerns of an increase of jihadi activity following the coup. The US and France trained 2500 military members in Niger. Paris used to conduct joint operations with Niamey. All this was suspended with the coup.
The attacks are seen as a warning sign of things to come after the coup. The West fears an escalation of jihadist activities, which have been incubating in the region for years. The Junta used terrorism as an excuse to grab power and depose Mohamed Bazoum. Therefore, it has no choice but to defeat the insurgents if it wants to preserve legitimacy.
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