NIAMEY – At least 70 soldiers have died in a terrorist attack on a military headquarters in Niger, a military source said on Wednesday.
Dozens of heavily armed attackers, allegedly from neighboring Mali, surrounded the barracks in Inates, near the Malian border, in the early hours.
They arrived discreetly in small groups on motorcycles and off-road vehicles, and when they had the barracks surrounded, began firing from all sides, the source said in a phone interview.
The group was able to penetrate the barracks and continued firing at the troops.
“We have lost at least 70 soldiers in the fighting, and we have about thirty missing,” the source said and added the commander of the post Hassane Anoutab was among those killed.
The attackers took all the weapons and ammunition they could carry and set fire to the building before fleeing without taking their own dead, between thirty and forty people.
President Mahamadou Issoufou has shortened his visit to Aswan in Egypt and canceled a trip to Pau in France, where president Emmanuel Macron had summoned heads of state from five Sahel countries to discuss stability and French presence in the area.
Wednesday’s attack was the second time in six months the Inates barracks has been targeted by terrorists, in July 18 soldiers were killed in a similar assault.
Another source Almou Boubacar told Efe the attackers had crossed the border from Mali and reached the barracks in a long caravan of vehicles that went unnoticed.
“We don’t understand how something like this can happen when the area lives under a state of emergency since 2017,” Boubacar said.
It was the second terrorist attack in three days in the western part of Niger, a country that until recently had the focus of insecurity concentrated in the Diffa region, in the southeast corner of the country.
As has happened in neighboring Mali, terrorism seems to spread across different parts of Nigerian territory and threatened the stability of the country, one of the poorest in the Sahel and Africa.