More Boko Haram fighters surrender in Niger: government
Niamey (AFP) - Around 20 more members of the jihadist group Boko Haram have surrendered in Niger, the government says.
"About 50 Boko Haram fighters have now given themselves up" since December 27, Niger's interior minister, Bazoum Mohamed, said in an interview broadcast late Wednesday on the state TV channel Tele Sahel.
The combatants surrendered at Diffa, in southeastern Niger, a Boko Haram stronghold close to the border with Nigeria, where 31 fighters turned themselves in at the end of last month.
Mohamed attributed the success to a military squeeze on the group, launched in July, coordinated with security forces in Nigeria and Chad, where the group also operates.
More surrenders will follow, he said, adding "in some sectors, the war (against Boko Haram) is already over."
But he warned that "organised Boko Haram elements are training" in the marshes of Lake Chad, a zone that straddles the three countries.
Three Niger soldiers were killed and seven wounded on the night of New Year's Eve when Boko Haram fighters attacked their position at Baroua, in the Diffa region, the military say.
Fifteen assailants were killed and another one was captured, they say.
Boko Haram is waging a seven-year-old uprising against the Nigerian state that has claimed more than 20,000 lives, with the insurgency spilling over the West African nation's borders into neighbouring states.
The violence has left around 2.6 million people homeless, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations warning the affected region faces the "largest crisis in Africa".
Diffa is one of the worst-hit regions, with around 300,000 people supported by a local population which is already chronically poor.