IS claims responsibility for Niger attack which killed 71

NIAMEY: The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for an attack on an army camp in Niger which left 71 military personnel dead, the SITE intelligence group said on Thursday (Dec 12).

Hundreds of militants attacked the camp, near the border with Mali with shells and mortars on Tuesday, killing 71, injuring 122 and leaving "others missing," according to the defence ministry.

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The attack in Inates in the western Tillaberi region was the deadliest on Niger's military since Islamist militant violence began to spill over from neighbouring Mali in 2015.

Map of Niger locating the militant attack on a military camp that killed at least 71 soldiers. (AFP Photo)

"The Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed credit for the deadly raid on the Inates military base in Niger," SITE, which monitors militant media, said in a statement on Thursday. It added that ISWAP claimed it had killed "over a hundred soldiers".

The attack was carried out by "heavily armed terrorists estimated to number many hundreds", the defence ministry said on Wednesday, adding that "a substantial number of terrorists were neutralised".

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The fighting lasted three hours, combining shelling and artillery fire with "the use of kamikaze vehicles by the enemy".

THREE DAYS OF MOURNING

"Clashes took place with light, medium, and heavy weapons, which led to killing at least 100 elements and wounding dozens, and burning barracks inside the base," the ISWAP statement claimed, according to a translation by SITE.

"The mujahideen took control over it for a few hours, and captured weapons and ammunition, 16 vehicles, and multiple tanks as spoils," ISWAP said, referring to its fighters.

The attack dealt a blow to efforts to roll back extremism in the Sahel.

Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou raced back in the night from a security and development conference in Egypt to chair a meeting of the National Security Council in Niamey. Three days of national mourning were declared.

MILITANTS BECOMING BOLDER

Militant violence has spread across the vast Sahel region, especially in Burkina Faso and Niger, after it began when armed Islamists revolted in northern Mali in 2012.

In the last four months, more than 230 soldiers in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have lost their lives, in addition to 13 French troops killed in a helicopter collision while hunting militants in northern Mali.

That is in addition to the thousands of civilians who have died and more than a million who have been displaced since the militant revolt began in Mali.

Analysts note an escalation in the militants' operational tactics, which seem to have become bolder and more complex.

Instead of hit-and-run raids by a small group of Kalashnikov-armed guerrillas, the militants are nRead More – Source