The fighting in southwestern Niger, along the border with Nigeria, has intensified. A large force of Boko Haram terrorists stormed a Niger military base in Diffa, the largest city in the area.
The group claimed that they completely overran the base in Diffa. They posted a propaganda video that purportedly shows their fighters capturing the base.
Through heavy firing in the background, their fighters pass by a fallen Niger soldier and then shoot the already dead soldier twice. Amid shouts of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), they then withdraw from the compound. However, local residents of Diffa told the news media, that the attack, which came from the Nigeria side of the border, was pushed back.
News media interviewed several locals who witnessed the attack late in the day.
Lawan Boukar, a local resident, told the North Africa Journal, “We heard gunfire, especially heavy weapons, between 4:30 pm and 7:00 pm on the southern side of the city.”
“It was an audacious infiltration attempt by Boko Haram, who were then forced back to the bridge at Doutchi,” he added. The bridge, the witness referred to, is a cross-border bridge about 18 miles from the base. His account directly refutes Boko Haram’s allegation that the base was overran.
Another resident said, “[The attackers] came over from the Nigerian side in the late afternoon when the Ramadan fast was about to break — they were obviously hoping to catch our soldiers unawares.”
This latest attack by Boko Haram comes on the heels of a month-long operation in neighboring Chad, where the army has targeted the terrorist group in the contested Lake Chad region. The military forces of Chad claimed to have killed over 1,000 of Boko Haram’s fighters in the operation against a loss of 52 Chadian troops.
In late March, Boko Haram fighters killed 50 Nigerian soldiers in an ambush near Goneri village in Borno State. The government claimed that all of the terrorist fighters were killed in the fighting.
Back in 2017, four American troops from the 3rd Special Forces Group were also killed in fighting in Niger.
Boko Haram, or the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) as it is also known now, has been led by Abubakar Shekau since 2009. When Boko Haram first formed in 2002, its actions were nonviolent. Its main goal was to purify Islam in northern Nigeria. However, since March 2015, the group has aligned itself with the Islamic State and waged a terror campaign.
In the same year, the terror and violence spilled over into the Sahel. They have been especially intense in the Lake Chad region, where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria meet.
Boko Haram has repeatedly targeted Diffa. The city now contains over 300,000 displaced refugees — about 200,000 from Nigeria and 100,000 from Niger — who have fled to the city to flee the violence, according to the UN. To put this into perspective, Diffa’s population is 200,000.
Since the insurgency started in 2009, Boko Haram has killed about 36,000 civilians and military members and displaced nearly 2.5 million from their homes. Over 4,000 have been killed in the past year in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.
As the fighting and violence continue to rage in the region, with no end in sight, the host nations continue to work together to stem the tide.