September 23, 2023

By Sam Mednick | Related Press

NIAMEY, Niger — Insurgents killed 17 troopers and wounded practically 24 within the first main assault in half a 12 months in opposition to the military in Niger, the place Western powers worry a coup by the elite presidential guard final month is weakening a uncommon ally in opposition to jihadi violence in West Africa’s Sahel area.

Niger was one of many final democratic nations within the area south of the Sahara and France and the U.S. have about 2,500 navy personnel there who have been coaching Niger’s forces. France additionally carried out joint operations with its former colony, however because the coup Paris and Washington have suspended navy operations, giving the jihadis extra respiration room.

A navy detachment was attacked Tuesday afternoon because it moved between the villages of Boni and Torodi within the Tillaberi area, the Ministry of Protection mentioned on state tv Tuesday. The wounded have been evacuated to the capital, Niamey.

It was the primary main assault in opposition to Niger’s military in six months, a worrying signal of potential escalation, mentioned Wassim Nasr, a journalist and senior analysis fellow on the Soufan Heart, a assume tank.

“What we’re witnessing right now is each jihadi warring factions, the Islamic State group and (al-Qaida affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin), marking their territory due to the safety void brought on by the coup. This undoubtedly needs to be seen within the context of the continuing struggle between the 2 teams,” he mentioned.

Neighboring nations are threatening navy motion in opposition to the coup, whose supporters mentioned Wednesday that they’d register volunteers to combat and assist with different wants so the junta has an inventory in case it must name on folks.

One organizer, Amsarou Bako, claimed that the junta shouldn’t be concerned find volunteers to defend the coup, though it’s conscious of the initiative.

It’s not clear how actual the opportunity of regional battle is.

Many Bazoum supporters have been silenced or gone into hiding, and rallies to assist the president are shortly shut down by police. A number of ministers and politicians from deposed President Mohamed Bazoum ‘s regime have been detained because the coup, with human-rights teams unable to entry to entry them.

The West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, says it has activated a “standby power” to revive order in Niger.

Bako, one of many founders, informed The Related Press on Tuesday {that a} recruitment drive will launch Saturday in Niamey in addition to in cities the place invasion forces may enter, equivalent to close to the borders with Nigeria and Benin, two nations which have mentioned they’d take part in an intervention.

Regional tensions are deepening because the standoff between Niger and ECOWAS exhibits no indicators of defusing, regardless of indicators from either side that they’re open to resolving the disaster peacefully. Final week the junta mentioned it was open to dialogue with ECOWAS after rebuffing the bloc’s a number of efforts at talks, however shortly afterwards charged Bazoum with “excessive treason” and recalled its ambassador from neighboring Ivory Coast.

Analysts say the longer the coup drags on, the much less probably an intervention will happen because the junta cements its grip on energy, probably forcing the worldwide group to just accept the established order.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned on Tuesday there was nonetheless room for diplomacy to return the nation to constitutional rule and mentioned the U.S. supported ECOWAS’ dialogue efforts, together with its contingency plans.

The brand new U.S. ambassador to Niger, Kathleen FitzGibbon, is predicted to reach in Niamey on the finish of the week, in keeping with a U.S. official. The US hasn’t had an envoy within the nation for practically two years. Some Sahel specialists say this has left Washington with much less entry to key gamers and data.

Whereas regional and western nations scramble for how one can reply, many Nigeriens are satisfied they’ll quickly be invaded. The nation of some 25 million folks is likely one of the poorest on the earth and residents are hoping the brand new regime will set the nation on a brand new path. In Niamey Wednesday, keen locals mentioned they’d do what it took to defend the nation.

“My youngsters and I really like these troopers and I invite younger folks to affix the military and develop our nation and our villages,” mentioned Amadou Hawa, a Niamey resident who lives in a shanty city on the facet of the highway.