Niger vowed to avenge the deaths of 30 of its soldiers who were killed by Boko Haram insurgents in one of the jihadist group’s deadliest attacks in the country.
“We must continue to fight, this insult must be expunged, there is nothing to be done, it must be avenged,” Defence Minister Hassoumi Massoudou said Sunday.
The minister was speaking to troops at a garrison at Bosso, near the Nigerian border where the deadly attack took place on Friday, according to a broadcast on state television on Monday.
It said the minister visited military positions in Bosso accompanied by army chiefs and Nigerian General Lamidi Adeosun, head of the multinational force that groups soldiers from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad to fight Boko Haram.
The minister also toured the town to view to scale of the damage caused by the Islamic insurgents, the television said.
It showed images of a burnt-out military transport vehicle and a town seemingly devoid of its 20,000 residents and Nigerian refugees.
“It’s terrible, all of Niger is crying,” said Massoudou, adding that he felt “deeply wounded” after visiting the site of the bloodshed.
The attack “will unfortunately be engraved on the history of our people.”
He urged the troops to keep their “morale high” as “we will win this war.”
Thirty Nigerien and two Nigerian soldiers were killed in the attack by hundreds of Boko Haram assailants on a military post in Bosso, the defence ministry said on Saturday. It said 67 soldiers were wounded.
– Insurgents ‘do what they like’ –
“On the enemy’s side, several dead and injured were taken away,” the ministry said.
Local resident and former MP Elhaj Aboubacar said: “They drove up at twilight, shouting Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest), they fired a lot of shots and torched many places in Bosso.”
“We don’t know where our military went, but one thing is for sure, Boko Haram were able to do what they liked until dawn,” Aboubacar said.
It was one of the deadliest attacks by Boko Haram in Niger since the Islamist group began launching raids in the country in February 2015 from its stronghold in neighbouring Nigeria.
Boko Haram’s seven-year insurgency has devastated infrastructure in Nigeria’s impoverished northeast and forced around 2.1 million people in Nigeria to flee their homes, according to the UN’s refugee agency.
The unrest has left at least 20,000 people dead in Nigeria and made more than 2.6 million homeless.
Since Friday’s attacks, thousands of residents have fled Bosso to “more secure areas”, a UN source said.
Water, food, shelter and medical aid remain “the most urgent needs”, the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in Niamey.
It said humanitarian aid missions to Bosso were suspended for security reasons.
The attack comes as the multinational force prepares to launch a “decisive” offensive against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region.