One hundred and twenty “terrorists” were “neutralized” during a joint military operation launched on February 1 by elements of the Nigerien armed forces and the French force Barkhane in southwestern Niger, the Nigerian ministry announced on Friday evening of the defense. The operation took place in the north of the Tillaberi region, located in southwestern Niger and bordering Mali, the ministry said in a statement.
“The balance sheet as of February 20, 2020, is as follows: on the friends’ side, no loss is to be deplored, on the enemy side, 120 neutralized terrorists including 23 in the triangle Inates, Tongo Tongo, Tilowa. Ten motorcycles and various equipment used for the production of improvised explosive devices and for observation seized and destroyed”, according to the text, read on public radio.
Niger’s Minister of Defense, Issoufou Katambe, praised “cooperation with the strategic partner in the fight against terrorism alongside the Nigerian armed forces”. “This joint operation is consistent with the recommendations from the Pau (France) summit of January 13, 2020”. The Tillaberi region is a vast unstable area of almost 100,000 km2, bordering the three border areas (Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali).
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State of emergency for 2 years
It is in this space that French President Emmanuel Macron and his G5 Sahel counterparts – Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad – decided on January 13, 2019, in Pau, to coordinate more and focus their military action by targeting in priority the EIGS (Islamic State in the Grand Sahara).
In addition to the state of emergency in force for two years, the Nigerien authorities took new security measures at the beginning of January, such as a motorbike ban or the closing of markets, in an attempt to stem jihadist attacks in Tillaberi. Some 174 soldiers were killed there in December and January in three attacks including that of Chinegodar (89 dead on January 8), Inates (71 dead, December 10, 2019).
On October 4, 2017, four American soldiers and five Nigerien soldiers were killed in an ambush in Tongo Tongo, a village where 28 Nigerien soldiers were also massacred in May 2019. All of these attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group.
The entire Sahel – in particular Mali, Niger, and Burkina – is targeted by the increasingly daring assaults of Islamist groups, despite the strengthening of local armies and the presence of 4,500 French soldiers of the Barkhane anti-terrorist force. According to the UN, jihadist attacks in Mali, Niger and Burkina killed 4,000 in 2019.