Fifteen soldiers have been killed and six are missing after a “terrorist” attack in southwestern Niger, near the border with Burkina Faso, the defense ministry said on Sunday.
The soldiers were first ambushed and later hit by an improvised explosive device as they tried to evacuate their wounded during Saturday’s attack around 11:00 am (1000 GMT), the ministry said.
The toll of the attack in the Torodi region is “15 soldiers killed, seven wounded and six missing,” the statement said.
Backed by military aircraft, Niger’s ground forces launched a “wide search in the area” to “arrest the terrorists,” the statement said.
Torodi is located in the southwest of the Tillaberi region which lies along the border of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.
It has been subject to frequent attacks by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the largest jihadist alliance in the Sahel.
The suspected jihadist attacks increasingly target civilians in the Tillaberi region, a vast, arid area.
About 33 villagers were killed in two separate attacks in the past week, further north, towards the Mali border.
A contingent of 1,200 Chadian soldiers is deployed in the three-border region as part of a multinational force assembled by the G5 Sahel group, which includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.