President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday condemned the terrorist attack in Inates, western region of Niger Republic, near the Mali border, which resulted in the killing of over 70 soldiers military personnel, with over 30 people still unaccounted.
A caravan of gunmen ambushed a military post in the West African nation of Niger, killing over 70 soldiers in an attack bearing the hallmarks of Islamist groups operating in the region, the country’s defense ministry said Wednesday.
Assailants in cars and on motorbikes stormed the army base Tuesday night with explosives.
Expressing deep shock and sadness over the heinous and despicable attack by terrorists that reportedly crossed in from neighboring Mali, President Buhari expressed Nigeria’s solidarity with the government and people of Niger Republic in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou cut short a trip abroad because of the “tragedy,” his office said in a tweet, calling attention to the continent’s rapid spread of extremists with ties to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
Stressing Nigeria’s strong condemnation of this terrorist act, President Buhari reaffirmed the resolve of his administration to continue working closely with countries neighbouring the Sahel and the Sahara, as well as international partners, to defeat the roving terrorists creating havoc in the sub region.
”On behalf of myself, the government and people of Nigeria, I send our deepest condolences to the families of the bereaved, the government and the people of Niger Republic following this dastardly attack.
”We offer prayers for the repose of those murdered and for the safe recovery and return of those who are still to be accounted for,” said the President.
The leader of neighboring Burkina Faso, which is also struggling to fight off insurgent groups, condemned the violence on Twitter, as early reports detailed one of the deadliest massacres of the country’s security forces in years.
No group had claimed responsibility for the attack.
The bloodshed comes less than a week before West African leaders are to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron in southwestern France to discuss the French military’s future role in curbing the conflict.
The ambush in western Niger took place a few hours from the village of Tongo Tongo, where militants from the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara killed four U.S. and five Nigerien soldiers in a 2017 attack that drew global scrutiny.
Niger has worked with French forces and troops from bordering countries in recent years to contain the unrest that has left thousands dead and forced nearly a million people from their homes, by the United Nations’ latest count.
U.S. officials say the fight against extremism has moved to Africa and warn that terrorists are using largely ungoverned swaths of harsh terrain to recruit fighters and plan attacks.
Islamist militant violence in the Sahel region has doubled every year since 2015, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a Washington-based think tank that tracks the death toll.
Militants are known to steal equipment after striking military outposts, analysts say, fueling a cycle of assaults that have grown more sophisticated.
West African leaders have pledged to spend $1 billion over the next five years to address the problem. But governments in the Sahel — some of the poorest in the world — often lack resources to combat the scourge. Borders are porous.
Additional reports by Washington Post