Niamey, Aug 16 (EFE).- At least 17 soldiers were killed and 20 injured in a militant attack in a southwest border region, the defense ministry said.
In a statement released late on Tuesday, the ministry said a group of militants laid an ambush and attacked a detachment of Niger’s army moving between Boni and Torodi near the town of Koutougou, near the Niger borders with Mali and Burkina Faso.
The statement claimed that the soldiers reacted swiftly and minimised the damage.
“The swift reaction of the soldiers and the air-land response at the scene of the skirmish enabled the enemy to be dealt with,” the statement said.
As estimated 100 “terrorists” were neutralized as army men destroyed two convoys of more than 50 motorcycles each, the statement said.
Last Sunday, seven members of the Niger National Guard died in a militant ambush in a southern town.
After a long drawn conflict, the West African landlocked country plunged into a political crisis on July 26 when the army overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum, arrested him, and suspended the constitution.
Amid international efforts to defuse military and political tensions in Niger, army-appointed Prime Minister Mahamane Lamine Zeine met with Chad President Mahamat Idriss Déby in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena.
The Chadian government has advocated dialogue to resolve the crisis.
Zeine said his government welcomed Chad’s “strong commitment to support Niger at this very critical moment.”
“The talks with the Chadian authorities have been fruitful,” he said in a statement.
Chad Prime Minister Saleh Kebzabo said he was “happy” for the Niger prime minister’s visit, insisting that his country would favor “diplomatic options” to resolve the crisis.
“Military options can aggravate the situation in the entire Sahel region,” Kebzabo told Chadian state radio.
Regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has threatened a military action if the military does not restore the constitutional order and release President Bazoum.
The military junta has ignored the threats and has warned that it would respond to any military threat “instantly” and “strongly.”
A possible military intervention has divided the region as Nigeria, Benin, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal have confirmed the availability of their armies.
However, Mali and Burkina Faso, the neighboring military-ruled countries, oppose the use of force, warning that any military action on Niger would amount to a declaration of war against them.
Guinea-Conakry, Algeria, and Cape Verde have also rejected the military intervention, advocating dialogue. EFE