Boko Haram jihadists in deadly clash with army in southwestern Niger

Boko Haram fighters clashed with government forces on Sunday in Diffa, the largest city in southwestern Niger, in a successful attack on a military camp, jihadists said on Sunday.

Contradictory versions of the results emerged on Tuesday, with Islamists claiming to have invaded the site, but residents told AFP that the attackers had been repelled.

Propaganda video released by the Islamic State Province of West Africa (ISWAP), a Boko Haram splinter group affiliated with the so-called Islamic State, claims to show that heavily armed insurgents are storming a military camp following heavy fighting and heavy weapon fire.

A soldier is seen lying face down, dead or unconscious, and shot twice.

The attackers then leave the camp with military vehicles and weapons with cries of Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest).

The area around Diffa, a town of around 200,000 people near the Nigerian border, has been attacked several times by the jihadist group, which emerged in Nigeria in 2009.

Local people said they heard the sound of heavy fighting.

“We heard gunshots, especially heavy weapons, between 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on the south side of the city,” said Lawan Boukar, a local resident.

“It was a bold attempt to infiltrate Boko Haram, who was then forcibly returned to the Doutchi bridge,” he said, referring to a cross-border bridge located about 30 kilometers away (18 miles) away.

Another resident said the attackers “came to the Nigerian side in the late afternoon, when the Ramadan fast was about to break – they were obviously hoping to catch our soldiers by surprise.”

A security source confirmed the “attack” but did not give details. The Defense Ministry, contacted by AFP, announced that it would publish a press release later.

Troubled region

The Boko Haram insurgency has killed more than 36,000 people since it started in northeastern Nigeria in 2009 and has displaced nearly two million people from their homes.

Violence spread in neighboring countries of the Sahel in 2015, especially in the Lake Chad region, where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria converge.

The Diffa region is home to 120,000 refugees from Nigeria as well as 110,000 internally displaced people, according to UN data released in October.

Sunday’s attack came after an air and ground offensive against the group by Chad following a brazen attack in which nearly 100 soldiers were killed.

Chad claims to have killed a thousand jihadists and lost 52 of its men, and expelled the jihadists from its territory.

In late March, the Nigerian Defense Ministry said that a “figurehead” in Boko Haram, Ibrahim Fakoura, had been killed during an operation in the Lake Chad region.

In 2015, fierce fighting broke out between Nigerian soldiers and Boko Haram around the strategic Doutchi bridge and near Damasak, a Nigerian border village that the jihadists seized in October 2014.

Damascus was later taken over by the Nigerian army, supported by Chadian soldiers.

Nigerians are also facing jihadist attacks in the west of the country from Mali.

About 4,000 people were killed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso last year in jihadist violence, often linked to inter-community tensions, according to a UN estimate.