Islamic State kills almost 100 soldiers in Niger

Islamic State fighters reportedly before the Chinagoder assault.

On Thursday, at least 89 Nigerien soldiers were killed in a massive assault on a military base near the borders with Mali. Following several days of silence, the Islamic State has officially claimed the raid.

On Jan. 9, the Nigerien military base at Chinagoder, which sits on the border with Mali, was targeted by dozens of jihadists from the Islamic State’s group in the region.

While the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility stated that it killed over 100 soldiers, it otherwise did not present any new information. The statement repeats the local reporting that the jihadists were able to briefly overrun the base after a sustained firefight.

And while the group’s death toll is indeed exaggerated, it is not distorted by that much.

Initially, Nigerien officials downplayed the attack, reporting 25 soldiers dead and that the majority of the jihadists were also killed. In the days following, however, Niger has progressively raised the death toll which now stands at 89 soldiers dead.

Nigerien authorities have also maintained that 67 jihadists were also killed in the assault. Though photos released by the Islamic State purportedly from the attack have directly contradicted this claim.

The photos show the jihadists raiding the base before briefly occupying it. The Islamic State’s men can be seen capturing weapons and equipment, as well as standing over the dead bodies of several Nigerien soldiers.

The attack marks one of the deadliest, if not the deadliest, jihadist assault on Nigerien forces. This follows last month’s raid on the military base at Inates, which left 71 soldiers dead.

The jihadist group also claimed today the Dec. 26 ambush on Nigerien troops near Sanam, which killed 14 soldiers.

Combined the three Islamic State attacks have killed at least 174 Nigerien soldiers in just over a month.

In response, Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou has reorganized the leadership of military in order to reformulate its strategy.

The new military leadership has also announced a new offensive to begin against the Islamic State in the region, though it is unclear when or how it will progress. Past offensives have so far failed to stymie the spread of jihadist violence.

In addition to the new claims from Niger today, the Islamic State also released a video via its Amaq News Agency of its men firing rockets at a Burkinabe military near near Arbinda in Burkina’s Soum region.

That region has also seen an increase in jihadist violence from both the Islamic State and al Qaeda in recent years.

While al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) is still the dominant jihadist actor inside Mali and large parts of Burkina Faso and Niger, recent Islamic State attacks in the region have demonstrated its growing capabilities.

The Islamic State has also afforded more attention to its growing branch in Sahel, with it just releasing a major video on the region last week. And last year, the Islamic State’s central leadership reorganized the so-called ‘Islamic State in the Greater Sahara’ into its ‘West Africa Province’ branding.

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.

Photos released by the Islamic State from the Chinagoder, Niger, assault:

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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