Suspected jihadists attack Nigerien refugee camp

Nigerien authorities have placed blame on suspected jihadists on an attack today after at least 20 people were killed in a Malian refugee camp in the Tassara commune in Niger. Most people killed were reported to have been Nigerien soldiers.

Jeune Afrique reported:

Forty assailants, presumably from Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb , stormed the secure facility by guards, gendarmes and Nigerien military. They were taken by surprise while they were having lunch. A source at the [Nigerien] Interior Ministry reported a provisional toll of twenty deaths of site security forces.One refugee was injured and a burned ambulance.

The jihadist column, composed of thirteen vehicles and a motorcycle fled to the northwest and to Mali, carrying three other vehicles. An air and ground tracking [unit] is engaged and the Nigerian army went on the spot, according to our source at the Interior Ministry.

RFI noted that authorities have stated that the attackers spoke Arabic during the assault.

This is not the first time a Malian refugee camp in Niger was the target of Malian-based jihadists. Last month, a refugee camp near the town of Ayorou was hit by a jihadist attack. Two civilians and one policeman were killed. In April, a camp near the Nigerien town of Tahoua was the scene of an assault, which left one policeman dead. (See this map of al Qaeda-linked attacks in Mali and the wider West African region by The Long War Journal for more information.)

No group has claimed today’s attack or the prior strikes, however, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) Murabitoon Battalion is known to operate in the areas. Additionally, an AQIM brigade known as “Saraya al Nasser” has also claimed an assault in Arlit, which is closer to Tassara. A fledgling group calling itself the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), led by Abu Walid al Sahrawi, a former leader of Murabitoon, is also known to operate near Ayorou. However, it is unclear what the strength of ISGS is and if it has the capabilities to carry out an operation like the one seen today.

Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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