Niger suffered the worst attack in its history on Thursday: with 89 soldiers were killed in Chinégodar, near the Malian border, according to a new report announced Sunday on the eve of the summit which brings together in France five heads of state from the Sahel and President Emmanuel Macron.
« After raking, the balance sheet is established as follows. Friend side: 89 dead. On the enemy side: 77 dead, « government spokesman Zakaria Abdourahame said on Sunday evening when reading a statement. The previous assessment announced Thursday reported the deaths of 25 soldiers and 63 « terrorists ».
In addition, a 72-hour national mourning was declared on Monday, the statement said.
A heavier balance sheet than that of Inates
The attack, the worst in Niger since the surge in jihadist actions in 2015, occurred a month after that of Inates on December 10, in the same Tillabéri region, which claimed the lives of 71 soldiers. Claimed by the Islamic State group, the attack on Inates, which was the deadliest until Thursday, had traumatized the country. The modus operandi of the two attacks is the same with the use of motorcycles and vehicles carrying armed combatants and then a flight to Mali.
This new assessment is announced on the eve of the summit in Pau, in the southwest of France, which will bring together on the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron, the heads of state of the five G5-Sahel countries (Burkina Faso , Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad) to strengthen the disputed legitimacy of the French soldiers deployed in the area and mobilize the European allies.
The summit must also address coordination between the countries of the region and try to find better efficiency in the fight against jihadist groups. The summit was postponed from December to January due in part to the attack by Inates. The French president also went to Niamey to pay homage to the Nigerien soldiers killed on his return from a visit to Côte d’Ivoire before Christmas.
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 anti-terrorist force barkhane.
Thursday’s attack was the first against the Chinégodar camp, a Nigerien village 10 km from the Malian border in the western Tillabéri region, often targeted by jihadist attacks.
Nigerien official media said on Friday that Nigerian Defense Minister Issoufou Katambé visited Chinégodar last week to « boost the morale of the troops. »
A state of emergency supposed to prevent recurrent jihadist incursions is in force in the region. Tillaberi authorities also decided to « ban the circulation of motorcycles, night and day » in several localities, including in the regional capital city of Tillaberi. On December 25, 14 soldiers were also killed in a « terrorist » attack in the commune of Sanam, also in the Tillabéri region.
Thursday, French Mirages intervened at Chinégodar. According to a press release from Barkhane on Friday, « a Mirage 2000 patrol intervened in support of the Nigerien armed forces by carrying out a show of force (overflight at low altitude) which proved to be crucial in putting the terrorists to flight ».
Nigerian President Mahamadou Issoufou announced on December 22, during Emmanuel Macron’s visit, that the Sahel countries and France would launch « an appeal for international solidarity » during the Pau summit.