At least 89 soldiers have died in a jihadist attack in the Niger army base on Thursday, 9th January. The four security sources who recently reported to Reuters have said that the 89 fallen heroes were buried on Saturday in the capital, Niamey. However, one of the sources said the actual death toll could be higher because a number of soldiers were immediately buried on Thursday in Chinagodrar, the region where the attack was launched.
The attackers, who were later driven off Chinagodrar, carried out this operation on bikes and other vehicles. Currently, no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack but the country’s Minister of Defence Issoufou Katambe has promised that the army would launch a new offensive against the Jihadist.
In the wake of the attack, France’s regional task force released its fighter jets to scrambled the region in order to scare or possibly avert an even heavier casualty count. The French government is still an active supporter of the G5-Sahel mission despite facing severe anti-French sentiments late last year which made it threaten to remove its troop from the region.
On 10th of December 2019, a similar assault was launched by jihadist on the country’s military base in the Liptako-Gourma region killing 71 soldiers. The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the attack with aims to warn the government of how much grounds they have gained in the region. Liptako-Gourma is currently regarded as the centre of insurgency and counter-terrorism operations because of its geographical peculiarity; it cuts across the 3 countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The jihadist in that region rely on illicit activities such as weapons, drug, motorcycle and fuel trafficking, cattle rustling, artisanal gold mining and poaching for survival.
Since 2019, militants connected to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group (IS) have launched bold attacks in the Sahel region, despite the presence of thousands of regional and foreign troops, killing over 400 soldiers.
Due to the intensity of attack meted on Niger, one of the G5 Sahel countries, an emergency meeting was called in Niamey, on the 15th of December 2019, by the G5 Sahel leaders to discuss the collective problem which was becoming increasingly impossible to contain.
According to a news report by Quartz, the reasons why jihadist groups have gained grounds throughout the Sahel are complex and not just a result of military strategy.
Cited in the news was a report by a South African based research group, the Institute for Security Studies(ISS), which stated that these groups have become an integral part of local and illicit economies and are gathering materials for attacks through complex trade networks. These make it difficult for the jihadist to be eliminated from the Sahel region.
According to William Assanvo, a lead researcher on the ISS project which spanned over 2 years with 800 interviews of people, “they are deeply rooted in the population, they have a good knowledge of the environment and how to operate within it and they also have information about the military camps”. He added that the connection of armed groups to local economies, conflicts and communities means these groups “will be more difficult to get rid of.”
The G5 Sahel is a regional military initiative that includes Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Burkina Faso. It was founded on February 16, 2014, in Nouakchott, Mauritania at a summit of the 5 Sahel countries. The purpose of G5 Sahel is to strengthen the bond between economic development and security and together battle the threat of jihadist organizations operating in the region.
The G5 Sahel is backed militarily and in some cases financially by a number of countries and organizations which include France, the African Union, the United Nations, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom.