Islamic State kills dozens of soldiers in Niger

The Islamic State’s claim for Wednesday’s complex assault in Inates, Niger, which left at least 71 Nigerien soldiers dead.

At least 71 Nigerien soldiers were killed on Wednesday in a complex Islamic State attack on their base near the borders with Mali. The assault marks one of the deadliest attacks in Niger.

According to local officials, hundreds of Islamic State gunmen assaulted a remote outpost near the locale of Inates. The jihadists utilized motorcycles, mortars, and several suicide car bombs to briefly overrun the base. Nigerien reinforcements were sent, which regained control later in the day.

Nigerien officials have confirmed the number dead at 71, while another 30 were still unaccounted for as of the time of publishing. They also added that several militants were also killed in the battle.

Yesterday, the Islamic State officially took credit for the raid. In its statement (above), it claimed that the battle “resulted in the destruction of at least 100 soldiers and wounded dozens others.”

The claim also noted that the jihadists captured weapons and ammunition, as well as 16 vehicles, before withdrawing from the base. No photos have yet to be released from the scene.

Like most other recent attacks in the Sahel, the assault was claimed under the Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) moniker. The Islamic State’s men in the Sahel – colloquially known as the “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” – are now grouped into this branch of the Islamic State.

This is not the first time that the Islamic State has targeted the Inates base. In July, at least 18 Nigerien soldiers were killed when the group launched a separate assault on the outpost. That region has become of the main focal points of ISWA in the Sahel.

Last month, the group killed over 50 Malian soldiers just across the border in In-Delimane. Much like this week’s raid, that assault saw the combined use of motorized infantry via motorcycles, mortar fire, and the use of several suicide car bombs.

While earlier this year, 28 Nigerien soldiers were killed near Tongo Tongo after the Islamic State-loyal militants ambushed them following a patrol after a jihadist prison break in Niamey. This is also the region where four US Special Forces soldiers were killed in 2017.

Earlier last year, the pro-Bamako Tuareg groups, Imghad and Allies Self Defense Movement (GATIA) and the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA), conducted sustained operations against the Islamic State in this region.

Despite the campaign, which was backed by France and Mali, this area straddling the border between Mali and Niger, continues to be one of the main area of operations for the Islamic State in the Sahel.

While further north in Mali’s Gao region, the Islamic State killed two dozen Malian soldiers in an assault late last month. Malian officials have also stated that at least 17 jihadists were also killed in that attack, however.

Security in the Sahel has rapidly deteriorated in recent years, as violence stemming from both al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and from communal tensions, has rocked Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. State responses, as well as actions taken by non-state actors, have also added to the perilous security situation across the region.

Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.

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