Niger says it killed ’30 jihadists’, arresting 960 people

Official sources say that last week in jihadist-hit Niger, about 30 Boko Haram members were killed and 960 followers, most of them women and children, were detained and fled to neighboring Nigeria.

State television channel Tele Sahel reported late on Tuesday that aerial reconnaissance had recorded a “massive movement of people” on March 7 along the Kamadougu Yoge River, which marks the border between the two countries, heading towards Lke Chad.

The report said they were members of the jihadist group Boko Haram who fled their hideout in the Sambisa forest in northeastern Nigeria after they came under pressure from their rivals, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).

ISWAP broke away from Boko Haram in 2016 and has become the dominant faction in the region’s long-running jihadist unrest.

He seized parts of the territory under the control of Boko Haram after leader Abubakar Shekau was killed in clashes with ISWAP in May 2021.

In an effort to prevent the group from reaching Lake Chad and using its swamps as a refuge, the army tried to negotiate a surrender using envoys and dropping leaflets, but ultimately launched an attack at dawn on March 11, Tele Sahel reported.

“About 30 terrorists were neutralized,” and another 960 people, most of them women and children, were detained, taken to the city of Diffa and handed over to the Nigerian military authorities, the report said.

An elected official in Tumur, a village near the town of Bosso bordering Lake Chad, confirmed Wednesday that “large numbers of Boko Haram” fleeing Sambisa had been intercepted at the Niger border “and handed over to Nigerian authorities.”

Another official said that many others, however, “are heading towards (islands) in the lake, especially women and children, in appalling conditions.”

One of the world’s poorest countries, Niger, is under attack by two jihadist rebels.

One, in the southwest, came from neighboring Mali in 2015, while the other, in the southeast, is a long-standing spin-off of the Boko Haram campaign in Nigeria.

Since 2009, the group’s violence has killed more than 40,000 people and forced about two million people to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

The vast Lake Chad region, which is shared by Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, is an infamous haven for both Boko Haram and ISWAP, who have camped on islands amidst its swamps.

In 2015, four countries created an 8,500-strong Multinational Joint Task Force to defeat armed groups.