NIAMEY: At least ten Niger soldiers were killed in an attack by militants in the country’s southwest on Thursday morning, three security sources told Reuters.
The attack took place about 190 km (118 miles) from the capital Niamey in Kandadji, near the tri-border zone of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger that has been the epicenter of Islamist insurgencies in the Sahel region in the last few years.
The sources including a senior military officer, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, did not say which group was responsible. Local affiliates of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State are active in the region and wage frequent attacks on soldiers and civilians.
Two security sources said the army responded to the attack with ground troops as well as helicopters, one of which was hit but was able to return to its base.
Niger is run by a military junta that seized power in a coup in July, partly out of discontent at the worsening security situation. Neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso have each had two coups in the last three years.
However, security analysts say attacks had been falling in Niger under ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, who had tried to engage with Islamists and the rural communities where they are rooted.
At least 17 soldiers were killed in another attack in southwestern Niger in mid-August.
France said on Sunday it would withdraw its 1,500 troops from Niger before the end of the year, after weeks of pressure from the junta and popular demonstrations against the former colonial ruler, which had forces there to fight the insurgents.
On Thursday, several hundred pro-junta supporters gathered again in front of the French military base in the capital Niamey to demand that the troops leave.