Suspected militants kill at least 11 members of government forces in twin attacks in different parts of Niger, officials say, adding more than 10 people were wounded and several vehicles were stolen.

Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, in a new approach, has initiated dialogue with militants leaders in an attempt to keep the peace.
Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, in a new approach, has initiated dialogue with militants leaders in an attempt to keep the peace. (Reuters Archive)

Seven Niger police officers and four soldiers have been killed in two separate attacks near the country's borders with Burkina Faso and Libya, the government said.

Niger's Interior Ministry said on Wednesday that "unidentified armed bandits" attacked the Petelkole police station near Burkina Faso in western Niger and a military base in Djado in the country's desert-covered far north.

Seven police officers died at Petelkole and 10 were wounded, with four in a serious condition, the ministry added in a statement, in an attack that bore the hallmarks of militant assaults that have long plagued the area.

Six vehicles –– including three belonging to police officers –– were torched and the attackers made off with another three vehicles, the ministry said.

The statement added that shops and hangers home to businesses surrounding the police station were also set on fire.

Security beefed up

In the second attack in Djado, the ministry said four soldiers died and another was wounded, and two vehicles were also taken away.

"Security measures have been immediately strengthened in the two areas," the interior ministry said.

Other sources had earlier said seven police officers had died and another 16 had been injured in the Petelkole attack.

"The provisional toll of this attack is seven police officers dead and sixteen wounded," said a municipal official who visited the scene of the incident.

A local official had also told the AFP news agency that "heavily armed men" arrived "in large numbers" during their assault on the police station.

The Petelkole attackers, believed to be fighters of Daesh raging in the region, seized three vehicles and torched several others, according to the city official.

The Petelkole attack took place in the Tera district of the Tillaberi region, a vast area on the borders of Burkina Faso and Mali, which is regularly targeted by militants groups affiliated with al-Qaeda or Daesh.

Volatile region

The Petelkole attack took place in the Tera district of the Tillaberi region, a vast area on the borders of Burkina Faso and Mali, which is regularly targeted by militants groups affiliated with al-Qaeda or Daesh.

Niger's vast and sparsely populated Djado region is not a militant target but is a corridor for trafficking people, weapons and drugs to Libya and Europe.

The area is also home to gold mines that attract thousands of Nigeriens and nationals from neighbouring countries.

Local authorities have recently denounced the "deterioration of the security situation" on major roads where armed gangs roam.

The huge and unstable region of Tillaberi, around 100,000 square kilometres in size, is located in the so-called "three borders" area between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali and has been the scene of several bloody attacks by militant movements since 2017.

Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, in a new approach, has initiated dialogue with militants leaders in an attempt to keep the peace.

But the military response continues, with some 12,000 soldiers fighting in a dozen anti-militant operations, nearly half of them along the more than 1,400 kilometres of borders with Mali and Burkina Faso.

Source: AFP