Niamey, Niger — 12 paramilitary police officers from Niger’s Gendarmerie Nationale Nigérienne were reportedly killed in another surprise attack by a large terrorist force late Saturday evening, in the southwestern border region of Niger.
Niger’s Interior Minister, Mohamed Bazoum, in an interview with French news said that the new attack occurred near the village of Ayorou within the Tillaberi region, just south of Niger’s border with Mali. Bazoum went on to describe that the attackers used overwhelming heavy machine gun fire from five vehicles–known as technicals–to initiate the pre-dawn ambush on the Nigerien forces. They inflicted mass casualties before fleeing back across the border of Mali, away from Nigerien reinforcements with an unknown number of dead and wounded of their own.
As of yet, no terror group has claimed the attack, however this latest attack on Nigerien forces is only 60 miles west from the village of Tongo Tongo, where Green Berets and support soldiers from the U.S. Army, 3rd Special Forces Group were ambushed earlier this month, killing four U. S. Special Forces soldiers.
The perpetrators of that ambush are suspected of being the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), a West African off-shoot from the Islamic State, and are most likely responsible for this latest attack . The ISGS have been operating along the southwestern border regions of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger for quite some time and only recently have begun increasing their presence within the Tillaberi region of Niger, as well as enjoying increased support from the nomadic Fulani tribes that occupy large swathes across the southwestern tri-border area.
The overall commander of the ISGS is Abu Walid Al-Sahraoui, who was a young up and coming regional commander of the al-Qaeda in the Magrib (AQIM) linked terrorist group, known as al-Mourabitoun. Sahraoui, who fell in love with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his announcement of the Islamic State Caliphate, became disillusioned with the AQIM and pledged himself and his Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) brigade to Baghdadi and the Islamic State in 2015.
Shortly afterward, Sahraoui hoisted the black banner of ISIS and began recruiting heavily from the Fulani nomadic tribes throughout West Africa. The Fulani having been the target of mass violent persecution by the government troops of Niger, Nigeria, and Mali. They quickly filled the ranks of the ISGS and another ISIS-linked terror group in the region, Boko Haram.
Yet, in the Tillaberi region of southwestern Niger, the ISGS found themselves among loyal supporters of its cause, since this region is predominately populated by the Fulani tribe–especially surrounding the villages of Tongo Tongo and Ayorou, where ISGS have reportedly conducted two major attacks in as many weeks.
Speculations of collusion between ISGS and senior elders have come to light from initial reporting from the surviving Green Beret team members. They said they felt some elders in the village were actively trying to delay the team from leaving a leadership meeting, allowing the ISGS insurgents time to emplace its weaponry and ambush the joint U. S.-Nigerien special forces troops. Several village elders, to include the village chief, were detained a few days after the ambush under suspicion of having a hand in the October 4th attack, which is currently being investigated by both the United States and Niger.
This latest terrorist attack in Niger falls just two days after Sen. Lindsey Graham of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee announced that Congress will be decreasing the rules of engagement restrictions for U.S. Special Operations forces operating in Africa. This comes alongside promises to drastically increase the U.S. military presence within the African continent, thereby officially declaring Africa as the new battlefield of the United States and its allies’ on-going fight in the Global War on Terrorism.
Feature image courtesy of: Twitter