Niger says 7 soldiers killed in clashes with Boko Haram jihadists
Seven Niger soldiers were killed when their post was attacked by Boko Haram in the country's southeast near Nigeria, the birthplace of the jihadist group, the government said Saturday.
The interior ministry said Friday's raid in Chetima Wanou had led to the death of seven soldiers and injured six others while "on the enemy side (there were) several deaths including one corpse left on the spot and many injured".
The evening raid was conducted "by heavily armed Boko Haram elements travelling in a convoy which included an armoured vehicle", it said.
The interior ministry said the assailants were repelled after heavy fighting, adding that the soldiers had captured eight jihadists and seized "three vehicles loaded with machine guns, three AK47 assault rifles and loads of ammunition".
The army engaged in a "cleaning up operation... to catch and neutralise the enemy," it said.
Chetima Wangou is a small village about 25 kilometres (15 miles) southwest of the regional capital Diffa. Since 2015, the group has targeted areas near Lake Chad, north of the city.
"Boko Haram wanted to surprise the Niger army by attacking an area far from Lake Chad," a local elected official told AFP.
The attack was the latest in a series ascribed to the jihadist group which began a bloody insurgency in Nigeria in 2009 that has spread to neighbouring countries, prompting a regional military response.
Some 27,000 people have been killed and two million displaced, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis in the region.
The United States recently handed over a communications and operations centre, costing $16.5 million (14.4 million euros), to the Niger army to help in the battle against Boko Haram.
The planning and operations control centre is designed to help Niger forces synchronise its operations through improved communications.