The military ministry declared a three-day national mourning period on Monday night after 29 soldiers were murdered in western Niger in an ambush by suspected terrorists.
More than a hundred terrorists used “improvised explosive devices and kamikaze vehicles” to target the soldiers, according to a televised statement from the ministry.
Two soldiers were seriously wounded and “several dozen terrorists” were also killed.
The attack took place near the country’s border with Mali, during military operations aimed at “neutralising the threat posed by the Islamic State” in the area, according to the ministry.
“Communications from the terrorists, who were forced to withdraw, have been intercepted”, the ministry said, adding that the attackers “benefitted from outside expertise”, without giving any further details.
For more than a decade, a jihadist insurgency has wracked Africa’s Sahel region, beginning in northern Mali in 2012 and extending to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso in 2015.
The “three borders” region between Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso is a frequent target of militants linked with the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
The bloodshed has fueled military takeovers in all three nations, with Niger the most recent victim of a July 26 coup that deposed its democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum.
In August, at least 17 Nigerien troops were killed and 20 were injured in an attack along the border between Niger and Burkina Faso by suspected jihadists.