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Suspected Militants Kill 10 Niger Soldiers, Defense Ministry Says

FILE - A map of highlighting Niger's Tillaberi region, where 10 soldiers died during an ambush on Feb. 10, 2023. The toll could rise because 16 people are still missing and 13 soldiers were wounded, according to a ministry statement.

At least 10 soldiers died in an ambush in southwestern Niger — close to the Mali border — by a group of what the defense ministry Saturday called armed terrorists.

The toll from Friday's attack could rise because 16 people are still missing and 13 soldiers were wounded, a ministry statement said.

The troops were on patrol in the northern part of the Banibangou department when they "came under a complex ambush by a group of armed terrorists" the ministry said, referring to jihadi groups.

The statement also said several attackers were killed during the fighting but did not specify how many.

The attack took place in Niger's vast western region of Tillaberi, which straddles Burkina Faso and Mali — two countries hit by jihadi insurgency — and has faced repeated attack since 2017 by armed groups linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State.

The region neighbors the Tahoua area, where heavily armed attackers stormed a camp housing refugees from neighboring Mali last week.

Nine people were killed in that assault, which a local official said was carried out by "heavily armed terrorists" on motorcycles who fled back into Mali.

More than 61,000 Malian refugees shelter in Tahoua and Tillaberi, according to the United Nations.

After the departure of French soldiers from Mali last year and a scheduled pullout shortly from Burkina Faso, France will field only 3,000 troops in the restive Sahel region, in Niger and Chad, where jihadi groups roam.

All of the countries involved are former French colonies.