Deadly attack on the Niger Nature Reserve intensifies the instability of the Sahel

Eight people, including six Frenchmen, were killed on Sunday in Niger by a still unidentified armed group. The country is regularly hit by jihadist groups operating in the Sahel, but this is the first time this tourist area, not far from the capital Niamey, has been affected.

A charred off-road vehicle, neatly with bullets, the doors open. Around eight lifeless bodies, probably executed, including six French and Nigerian members of the NGO Acted, and their guide, including Nigeria. After leaving Niger’s capital, Niger, on Sunday, October 9, no one suspected the dangers of observing the last peralta giraffes, established in the Kouré Reserve, an hour’s drive to the Southeast.

“We’re all going to Kouré for a weekend getaway, because it’s very easy to get to. Everyone goes, including ambassadors, diplomats, teachers, everyone! Everything is considered dangerous as an area,” a Western humanitarian based in Niamey told AFP. Before the attack, the French Foreign Ministry also kept the zone in yellow, for “increased vigilance”, and therefore advised not to go there, unlike a large part of the country north and west of the capital.

On the map of recommendations for travelers from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, southern Niger went from yellow to orange on Sunday 9 August. © France Diplomacy

Like Burkinabè and Malia’s neighbors, Niger has suffered from the growing security degradation affecting the Sahel since 2015 due to its long-standing establishment, mainly in Mali, of a myriad of jihadist or rebel groups, drug traffickers and inter-ethnic or religious conflicts. recurrent. The northern and western parts of the Tillabéri region, in the area known as the “three borders” between the three countries, are usually the hardest hit, especially by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS), one of the main terrorist groups operating in the area. . In two attacks in December 2019 and January 2020, 160 Nigerian soldiers in the region were killed by men in pickups and motorcycles, after fleeing to Mali. But Niamey and the entire region southeast of the capital had been spared. Until Sunday.

Niger: terrorist attacks have been increasing since 2015

“All eyes are, of course, on the organization of the Islamic State”

Following the Pau Summit, convened on 13 January 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron and his G5 Sahel counterparts (Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad and Mauritania) and an agreement to continue France’s involvement in the region through the Barkhane force, Paris increased its military presence from 4,500 to 5,100 soldiers. Strategic strikes have intensified, especially against the EIGS bases, giving hope for a “calm in the region”, according to Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella, governor of Tillabéri. “The strategy has been reinvented and Barkhane has resized its strength and strategy. Success has been achieved. By carrying out this attack just 70 km from Niamey, the jihadists wanted to show that they still retained operational capacity, as it” is far from their bases, ” and that the threat is far from eradicated “, estimate on RFI Seidik Abba, Nigerian essayist and journalist.

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According to sources from the French 24 journalist Wassim Nasr, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has denied participation in Sunday’s attack. The operandi mode rather indicates an act of EIGS, born in 2015 in Mali. According to International Crisis Group analyst Matthieu Pellerin, questioned on RFI, “of course all eyes are on[organisation] Islamic State “, weakened by the hunt for Barkhane and American drones stationed in Agadez, in the Nigerian desert, but still active and quick to respond. The researcher notes a” gradual encirclement of Niamey since 2019, with an increase of jihadist groups operating in the north and to and with south of Tillabéri, towards the border with Nigeria. “It is in the northeast of the latter country that Boko Haram operates, which has declared allegiance to the Islamic State organization in 2015 before becoming the Islamic State of West Africa (EIAO) and joining 2019 by the EIGS.

Jihadist violence, mixed with conflicts between society, killed at least 4,000 people in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in 2019, according to the UN. Launched in 2017 under the auspices of France, the Sahel G5 Joint Military Force has not yet proven its effectiveness and does not appear to be able to hinder the progress of jihadist groups south of Burkina Faso, north of Côte Ivoire, northern Benin, southern Mali and northwestern Nigeria, caught between Boko Haram and Sahelian terrorist groups, believes Matthieu Pellerin. “This indicates that the G5 Sahel model is already somewhat outdated. And we can clearly see, since the beginning of the year, an intensification of operations from West African countries in areas that are considered relatively spared. C” is worrying about the future. “