On Tuesday, May 14th, Niger soldiers running a routine military patrol were ambushed, with search operations beginning directly afterwards for missing soldiers who were involved.
The initial attack involved 52 soldiers who were in the patrol, and when they came across a group of heavily armed soldiers, were forced into a 2 hour fight. Initially, only 22 soldiers returned to base, and 17 were declared dead within the first few hours. Some troops were severely injured, and therefore evacuated to the capital for medical care. Eleven soldiers went missing after the attack, but security confirmed on Wednesday that these bodies had been found, bringing the total death toll to 28. After these final soldiers were found, ISIS/ISIL came out to take responsibility for the attacks.
The area that this attack happened, in Tongo Tongo, has been a site for many attacks in the past, against other military teams. On May 17th, ISIS/ISIL claimed responsibility for these attacks, without any direct evidence. They posted on their propaganda media outlet, as part of the increased violence and and armed attacks that are becoming more and more common in the area, including one in October, and another the following December. Both of these previous attacks resulted in the deaths of 9 and 15 people, respectively.
Other attacks have happened against other soldiers, as well as against churches in neighbouring suburbs. The violence from operators of ISIS/ISIL on individuals of Niger, including military personnel, and members of the public. The organisation have had many various conflicts with the people of Niger, but the violence has become less frequent in the last few years. These recent attacks seem unprecedented after this brief period of peace. It is thought that Niger has become a target from this group as this specific branch initially split from a Nigeria based group called Boko Haram. The fight between them has carried on and off for over a decade, resulting in the death of near 30,000 people. These latest attacks may be yet another attack in this ongoing violence.
Spokesperson from the United Nation James Bays stated that “we’re talking about instability and violence spreading across an entire region,” discussing how this latest attack has added to the heightening fear of the danger in this area. Particularly as the region was becoming more peaceful, and attacks being far less frequent in the recent years, having to adjust to this near constant fear of violence has increased the fear of their everyday lives.