A devastating attack by suspected jihadists in western Niger has claimed the lives of 29 soldiers, marking the deadliest assault since the military seized power in July.
The assault occurred near the country’s border with Mali during military operations aimed at countering the Islamic State threat, according to the Defence Ministry.
The Defence Ministry released a televised statement, stating that the soldiers were targeted with “improvised explosive devices and kamikaze vehicles by more than a hundred terrorists.”
Additionally, two soldiers were severely wounded, and “several dozen terrorists” were reportedly killed during the engagement.
The attack transpired northwest of Tabatol, near the border with Mali, an area notorious for skirmishes with militants associated with the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda.
The ongoing violence in the “three borders” region, which spans Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, has contributed to political instability and military takeovers in all three countries since 2021.
In response to the escalating crisis, Algeria, a neighboring country with significant influence, has offered to mediate talks for a return to civilian rule. Niger’s military leader, General Abdourahamane Tiani, has expressed a preference for a transition period not exceeding three years.
Algeria recently proposed a six-month transition plan supervised by a “civilian authority led by a consensual figure accepted by all sides of the political class.”
While Algeria did not specify an exact timeline in its recent statement, it announced Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf’s upcoming visit to Niamey to initiate discussions with all stakeholders.
Niger’s military leadership, on the other hand, has insisted that the duration of any transitional period should be determined through an “inclusive national forum.”
Meanwhile, the ousted president, Mohamed Bazoum, who has been confined to his presidential residence with his wife and son since the coup, is pursuing legal action against the coup leaders.
The lawsuit alleges “attack and conspiracy against state authority, crimes and offences committed by civil servants, and arbitrary arrests and confinements.”
Bazoum’s legal team is also appealing to two bodies of the UN Human Rights Council, including its working group on arbitrary detention.
The Economic Community of West African States, supported by Western allies, has threatened to use force as a last resort to reinstate Bazoum and has engaged in separate mediation talks with Niger’s leaders.
France, which maintains approximately 1,500 soldiers in its former West African colony as part of its anti-jihadist deployment in the Sahel, has been confronted with demands from coup leaders for a “negotiated framework” for the withdrawal of French troops.
The situation remains highly volatile, with Niger now entering a three-day period of national mourning for the fallen soldiers.
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