Suspected terrorists have killed 11 soldiers defending a village in a remote part of southwest Niger near another village where 69 people were recently killed, according to the state defence ministry.
The heavily armed attackers approached in a convoy of cars and motorbikes on Thursday afternoon, clashing with soldiers stationed outside the village of Dagne near the border with Mali, the ministry said in a statement on Friday.
The attack by “a column of heavily-armed terrorists in several vehicles and dozens of motorcycles” killed 11 soldiers, and left one injured and nine missing, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defence readout on public television.
“After fierce fighting, the enemy column was forced to retreat with its dead and wounded,” added the statement, which said “air and ground reinforcements dispatched to the area continue to sweep” the locality.
No group has claimed responsibility for the assault. A local affiliate of ISIL (ISIS) has killed hundreds of civilians in a series of attacks in the same area this year despite government efforts to regain control.
The soldiers attacked in the latest raid had been deployed to ensure the safety of the thousands of villagers who had returned to their communities, two days after 69 people were killed in another area near the Malian border about 160km (100 miles) away.
Armed groups have stepped up attacks in a poverty-stricken, arid zone of West Africa encompassing the borderlands of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso in recent years, with 80% of the attacks linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL and other affiliated terrorist groups.