Suspected armed Islamists have killed 12 soldiers in Niger’s remote southwest, state television reported on Tuesday, in the latest attack since army officers seized power last month.
An anti-jihadist operation by national guards was “the target of an ambush” Sunday evening at the locality of Anzourou in the Tillaberi region, Tele Sahel said.
It added that the troops’ “response… led to heavy losses being inflicted on the enemy.”
The troops have already been buried, in a ceremony attended by the province’s military governor, Lieutenant-Colonel Maina Boucar, it said.
At least 17 soldiers were killed on August 15 near the town of Koutougou, also in Tillaberi, the authorities have said.
Twenty other soldiers were wounded while more than 100 of the assailants were “neutralised” while retreating on motorbikes, they say.
The West African regional bloc ECOWAS has threatened to use force to reinstate Niger’s elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, who was detained by guards on July 26.
The African Union said Tuesday it had suspended Niger until civilian rule was restored and would assess the implications of any armed intervention.
Niger’s new leaders justified their coup over a perceived deterioration in security under Bazoum.
The insurgents have plagued West Africa’s Sahel region for more than a decade, breaking out in northern Mali in 2012 before spreading to neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso in 2015.
But according to a toll compiled by an independent monitor, attacks in Niger fell in the first six months of this year.
In the first half of 2023, attacks on civilians fell by 49 percent compared with the same period in 2022, while the number of deaths was down by 16 percent, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) project.