NIAMEY, Niger, Feb 7 – Boko Haram launched its first major attack in Niger on Friday, triggering a forceful response from regional troops who claimed to have killed more than a hundred of the Islamists.
The clashes in Bosso and Diffa, along the border with Nigeria, marked yet another expansion of violence attributed to Boko Haram, but it seemed to have come at a heavy cost.
Niger’s defence minister reported that 109 of the Islamists were killed, along with four soldiers and a civilian. Seventeen other troops were wounded.
Chadian forces, who have taken a lead role in battling Boko Haram in recent days, fought alongside Niger’s troops on Friday. Chad’s commander in Niger, General Yaya Daoud, was also wounded with a gunshot to the stomach, a security source said.
Niger’s Defence Minister Mahamadou Karidjo said calm had been restored to both Bosso and Diffa.
The clashes in Niger came as regional efforts intensified to battle Boko Haram, which has waged a six-year insurgency centred in northeastern Nigeria, where the Islamists have seized swathes of territory.
The conflict has killed at least 13,000 people and forced more than a million from their homes since 2009.
Niger announced Thursday that on Monday it would ask its parliament to approve sending troops to Nigeria to fight the militants alongside Chadian and Cameroon soldiers. READ: Niger troops to join regional fight against Boko Haram.
The United States condemned the fresh Boko Haram attacks in “strongest possible terms” and pledged support for regional forces.
“This unchecked killing must stop,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “We continue to provide support to governments in the region, including through intelligence sharing and are increasing our support for these efforts.”
US intelligence officials said Friday that while Boko Haram is flush with cash and weapons after a string of battlefield advances, the militants could face a tougher fight with Nigeria’s neighbours.
The military intervention of neighbouring powers could potentially be a “game changer in a positive way,” one intelligence official said.