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12 soldiers killed after attack by suspected jihadists in Niger

Seven soldiers died on Thursday in southwestern Niger and five others were killed in a road accident while trying to respond to the attack, Niger’s Defence Minister announced.

The attack took place about 190 kilometres (118 miles) from Niamey’s capital Kandadji, at the triple border zone of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The country has been the epicentre of Islamist insurgencies in the Sahel region over the past few years.

The sources, including an unnamed senior military officer who was not authorised to speak to the media, did not name those responsible for the attack. However, it is noted that local affiliates of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State frequently attack soldiers and civilians in the region.

Two security sources reported the army had responded to the attack with ground troops and helicopters, one of which was hit but managed to return to base.

Power in Niger changed after a military coup in July, partly prompted by the deteriorating security situation. Neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso have each experienced two coups in the past three years.

Security analysts note that attacks in Niger have increased under ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, who tried to engage with Islamists and the rural communities in which they had settled.

At least 17 soldiers were killed in another attack in southwestern Niger in mid-August.

After weeks of pressure from a changed government and popular demonstrations against the former colonial ruler, France declared on Sunday that it would withdraw its 1,500 troops from Niger by the end of the year.

On Thursday, several hundred supporters of the new authorities gathered again in front of the French military base in Niamey to demand the withdrawal.

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