On December 10th, a jihadist attack left 71 soldiers dead in a remote military camp in Niger, near the border with Mali, the Nigerian army announced.
This is the deadliest terror attack in Nigerian history.
Several hundred militants attacked a base in the western Niger town of Inates over a period of three hours, army spokesman Colonel Boubacar Hassan said on state television.
The area is the same one in which ISIS West African branch left almost 50 soldiers dead in two attacks in May and July 2019.
“The combat (was) of a rare violence, combining artillery shells and the use of kamikaze vehicles by the enemy,” he said.
He added that another 12 soldiers were wounded and an unspecified number of others were missing. An undisclosed number of militants were killed in the clash.
Two unnamed security sources, cited by Reuters claimed that 30 soldiers were missing.
Nigerian President Mahamadou Issoufou returned to the country, cutting his visit to Egypt short, after news of the attack broke out.
The cattle herding community of Inates has suffered greatly from militant attacks in 2019, with two village chiefs being killed.
The situation in the Sahel continues to further deteriorate, with ISIS and al-Qaeda linked militants continue mounting increasingly violent attacks across the region. Despite the presumed commitment by the UN, EU and even the US, the death count in the attacks, as well as their frequency have increased throughout 2019.
The situation is worse in Mali and Burkina Faso, but the large, porous border Niger shares with its two neighbors allows much of the militants to spill into it.
France is active in the Sahel, attempting to spread its influence in the region, while presumably fighting against terrorism. It has deployed approximately 4,500 troops so far and they’ve had little effect on the situation.
Thirteen French soldiers were killed in Mali in November when two helicopters collided during an operation against jihadists in the north of the country.
Anti-French sentiment has been on the rise in the Sahel, in all G5 countries, since so far there’s been little than empty promises and actions.
French President Emmanuel Macron warned the leaders of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania (the G5) to curb the anti-French attitude if they wished for assistance from France to continue.
“I want them (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania) to clarify and formalise their demands regarding France and the international community: do they want our presence and do they need it? I want clear answers to these questions,” he said at a news conference after a NATO summit in London.
I can’t have French troops on the ground in the Sahel when there is ambiguity (by authorities) towards anti-French movements and sometimes comments carried by politicians,” he said.
He said he had invited the leaders to Paris on December 16th, to address the issues.
“Their response is today a necessary condition for our troops to stay,” he said.
The meeting was delayed until early 2020, due to the attack in Niger. The French and Nigerian presidents agreed to postpone it.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Africa’s Sahel Region: Hotbed Of Chaos And Terrorism
- French Operation Barkhane In Africa’s Sahel Region (Map Update)
- EU Claims Situation In the Sahel Is Major Strategic Concern, Reaches Little Practical Conclusions