50 Boko Haram jihadists ‘neutralised’ in south Niger clash

The region of Diffa is home to 120,000 Nigerian refugees fleeing Boko Haram violence. (AFP pic)

NIAMEY: Fifty fighters of Nigeria’s Islamist group Boko Haram were “neutralised” during an overnight clash in the southeast of neighbouring Niger, the government said on Monday.

The defence ministry said “heavily armed terrorist elements of Boko Haram riding aboard around 20 vehicles” attacked a military post in Toummour, in the conflict-wracked Diffa region.

The assailants were repelled in a “spontaneous riposte”, the ministry said, giving a provisional casualty toll of one soldier wounded and 50 Boko Haram fighters killed.

Reinforcements from the Special Intervention Battalion joined the chase to the shores of Lake Chad, the statement said, adding that “several suspects” were captured along with two vehicles and many weapons.

The region abutting Nigeria and Chad has repeatedly suffered attacks since 2015 by the Boko Haram jihadist group, which has bases hidden in the vast Lake Chad area, where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria converge.

They had subsided since late last year, but on March 7 Boko Haram fighters, also aboard around 20 vehicles, launched raided another army position, in Chetima Wango, leaving eight soldiers dead and three missing.

State radio said there were three successive clashes and that vehicles that had managed to cross the border into Nigeria were “almost all neutralised” by air strikes by a joint multinational force of Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.

The Diffa region is home to 120,000 refugees from Nigeria fleeing the Boko Haram violence, as well as 110,000 people internally displaced within Niger, according to UN data released in October.