The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s complex assault on a Nigerien military base near the border with Mali. At least 18 soldiers were killed, while several more are still missing.
In a statement released by the Islamic State, the jihadist group said that the attack on a Nigerien base near the town of Inates began with two suicide car bombs before an assault team entered the fray. The suicide strike is a common tactic of jihadists, especially in the Sahel.
The jihadist group said that “dozens [of Nigerien soldiers] were killed and wounded,” while claiming that “hundreds” of Nigerien troops fled the base. The Nigerien military confirmed yesterday that 18 soldiers were indeed killed in the operation.
The Islamic State continues to claim that its forces briefly captured the base before withdrawing with “10 4×4 vehicles and large quantities of weapons and ammunition.” However, independent reporting has painted a different picture.
According to RFI, French jets quickly arrived on the scene and assisted Nigerien forces in repelling the jihadists. Additionally, American aircraft were reported to have also taken part in the counter-offensive.
It was first reported that American aircraft engaged the militants, but an official from US Africa Command later said that only ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaisance) support via an unarmed drone was provided, as well as later assisting with medical evacuations.
Yesterday’s assault marks the largest attack conducted by the group commonly known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) in two months. In May, at least 28 Nigerien troops were killed by the jihadists in an ambush near Tongo Tongo. However, yesterday’s strike was the first to utilize two suicide car bombs.
The jihadist outfit has claimed numerous operations across the Sahel since its inception in 2015, including raids in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and against local Tuareg groups, and French and American troops.
Men under ISGS, which is now folded under the Islamic State’s West African Province, recently re-pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and the Islamic State.
Security in the Sahel has rapidly deteriorated in recent years, as violence stemming from both al Qaeda and the Islamic State has rocked Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. State responses, as well as actions taken by non-state actors against various ethnic communities, have also added to the perilous security situation across the region.