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Niger says 55 jihadists killed in joint operation

AFP . Niamey
29 May 2023 21:45:02 | Update: 29 May 2023 21:45:02
Niger says 55 jihadists killed in joint operation
French soldiers of the 2e Regiment Etranger de Parachutistes (2eREP - 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment ) and Nigerien soldiers prepare for a mission on the French BAP air base, in Niamey, on May 14, 2023 — AFP Photo

Niger's army said Monday that 55 jihadists, including several high-ranking combatants affiliated with the Islamic State group, had been killed in a joint operation with Nigeria.

The 22-day operation which ended Sunday targeted an Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) stronghold in Arege in northeastern Nigeria's border region with Niger, it said.

The 55 "neutralised terrorists" include several senior military operatives as well as several religious leaders, it said, using a traditional term for jihadists.

The figures were given in an army bulletin on operations in Niger's southeastern region of Diffa, seen by AFP on Monday.

The ground and air operation aimed to "maintain pressure" on ISWAP and cut supply routes, the bulletin added.

Two soldiers were killed and three were injured, it said, adding that 13 vehicles, 13 motorcycles and five "booby-trapped vehicles" were destroyed.

The vast Lake Chad region, shared by Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, is a notorious bolthole for Boko Haram jihadists and ISWAP, their deadly rival.

The four countries bordering the lake set up a multinational anti-jihadist force in 2015.

Niger earlier this month said the army had picked up nearly 1,400 Boko Haram followers who were fleeing into the country following clashes with ISWAP.

The exodus started in March when ISWAP pursued Boko Haram in its forest hideout of Sambisa in northeastern Nigeria.

Niger's Diffa region has borne the brunt of jihadist attacks over the years but has been relatively calm since the start of 2023, a security source told AFP.

The country, one of the poorest nations in the world, is also facing a jihadist insurgency in its southwest, launched by militants who launched cross-border raids from Mali in 2015.