Africa

Gunmen kill 18 in Niger military camp raid

Gunmen have killed 16 soldiers in an attack on a military camp in western Niger, a hotspot of Islamist militant activity.

Unidentified gunmen have killed 16 soldiers in an attack on a military camp in western Niger, local residents and security sources say.

The raid occurred on Monday near the town of Inates, close to the Mali border where Islamist militants are active and in the same region where an ambush by Islamic State's West African branch killed 28 soldiers in May.

Niger hosts the African Union summit from July 6-9 less than 200km away in capital Niamey. In the run-up, the European Union has been training Nigerien forces to respond to militant attacks.

Zakari Insa, the brother of one of the soldiers killed in Monday's attack, and Souley Marou, a local villager, both said 16 soldiers had died.

Two security sources confirmed the death toll, and one of them said about a dozen vehicles had been stolen. Jihadists have previously launched attacks using vehicles stolen in previous raids.

Security has deteriorated in recent months across West Africa's Sahel region, a semi-arid strip of land south of the Sahara.

France and the US have deployed thousands of troops to the region to counter jihadist groups linked to Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

The attacks have also helped to stoke ethnic violence between rival farming and herding communities, particularly in Mali and Burkina Faso.

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