Niamey – Six soldiers and at least 22 jihadists have died in fighting in the Lake Chad region, a joint force deployed to the area said on Friday.
The force described the operation, conducted by air-supported troops from Niger and Nigeria, as a “success” and said it had benefitted from “decisive support by American partners.”
The region around Lake Chad, a vast lake bordered by Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, has become a bolthole for Boko Haram and Islamic State-linked jihadists.
In a statement, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), bringing together troops from those four countries, said it had conducted a three-week sweep on Nigeria’s side of the border.
Four Nigerian and two Nigerien troops were killed in the operation that ended on Tuesday, while 23 of their comrades were lightly wounded, it said.
“At least 22 terrorists were neutralised,” the statement said, using a term referring to jihadists.
The force destroyed four vehicles, torched motorcycles and recovered AK47 assault rifles, it added.
The troops also discovered and destroyed “artillery emplacements” pointing towards the southeastern Niger city of Diffa.
Located close to the Nigerian border, Diffa hosted national independence celebrations on December 18 that were attended by President Mohamed Bazoum.
The first phase of the operation unfolded in the Malam Fatori area, and the second in the areas of Arege, Gashiger, Asaga and Kamagunma, the task force said.
The MNJTF traces its origins back to 1994, when it was a Nigeria-only force aimed at combatting banditry on the country’s northern border.
It was later expanded after Boko Haram launched a bloody insurgency in northeastern Nigeria that then extended into neighbouring countries.
Niger, the poorest country in the world according to the yardstick of the UN’s Human Development Index, is also battling jihadist attacks on its western border with Mali.
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