Niamey: Seven soldiers and 38 militants died in an assault by the jihadist group Boko Haram in southeastern Niger, the defence ministry said on Saturday, the latest in a series of attacks that have shattered months of relative calm near the Lake Chad basin.
"Armed forces... strongly repelled an attack by the terrorist group Boko Haram on the outskirts of Gueskerou," the ministry said in a statement read on state television. Gueskerou is located in the Niger region of Diffa close to the birthplace of Boko Haram in neighbouring northeastern Nigeria.
According to a provisional toll, seven soldiers and "38 terrorists" were killed. One was taken prisoner. Five vehicles belonging to the attackers and "a large quantity of weapons (four AK47 rifles, eight machine guns, two RPG rocket launchers, ammunition) were recovered", the statement added.
The attack on Friday was the second in less than a month and targeted a remote military position on Lake Chad, which straddles Niger, Nigeria and Chad, the scene of many raids by the jihadist group since 2015. On February 16, seven Niger soldiers were killed during an attack on Chetima Wangou, also in southeastern Niger.
In early January, the Niger army claimed to have killed more than 280 Boko Haram militants in days of land and air raids. In November, around a dozen girls were taken in raids on several border villages in the southeast.
In the same month, seven local employees of a French drilling firm and a government official were killed after suspected Boko Haram gunmen stormed their compound. The government on Friday night named a new governor in Diffa.
Mohamed Mouddour will replace Mahamadou Bakabe who had been in post since April 2018. No reason was given. Boko Haram's bloody insurgency began in northeastern Nigeria in 2009 but has since spread into neighbouring countries, prompting a regional military response.
Some 27,000 people have been killed and two million others displaced, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis in the region. Militants have targeted both soldiers and civilians and have been blamed for abductions of children and employees of foreign companies.