At least 17 Nigerien soldiers were killed and 20 injured in an attack by suspected jihadists on Tuesday near the Niger-Mali border, the defense ministry said in Niamey.
Early Tuesday afternoon, "a detachment of the Niger Armed Forces (FAN) moving between Boni and Torodi was the victim of a terrorist ambush near the town of Koutougou", according to a statement from the ministry published late Tuesday. evening.
"The provisional toll" is 17 soldiers killed and 20 wounded, six of them seriously, "all evacuated to Niamey", he adds, specifying that a "mopping-up operation is still in progress".
The army affirms that on the side of the attackers, "two columns of more than fifty motorcycles each" were "destroyed, that is to say, more than a hundred terrorists neutralized during their withdrawal".
The locality of Koutougou is very close to the border of Mali in the region of Tillabéri (south-west). It was the deadliest known attack since the July 26 coup in Niger that toppled elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
The soldiers who took power, headed by General Abdourahamane Tiani, mainly put forward "the deterioration of the security situation" to justify their coup.
The Tillabéri region is located in the so-called "three borders" area between Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali, and is a haven for Sahelian jihadists, including those of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS).
For years, this part of Niger has been regularly targeted by attacks from these armed groups despite the massive deployment of anti-jihadist forces.
Before the coup, France, a former colonial power that has 1,500 soldiers in Niger, was actively involved with the Nigerien army in the fight against these jihadist groups.
The new military regime in Niamey has taken France as its main target, accusing it of wanting to intervene militarily to restore President Bazoum to his duties.