Gunmen kill 5 soldiers in Niger convoy ambush

NIAMEY, Niger (AP) – Gunmen killed five soldiers and wounded others during a weekend ambush of a military convoy performing escort duties in northern Niger, the army said Tuesday.

No one has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack, which occurred in the Agadez region on the road to Arlit town, the chief of staff for Niger’s army, Abdou Sidikou Issa, said in a statement.

The convoy, which included four Toyotas mounted with machine guns, was leaving the a gold mining site when it was hit. Armed groups and people who come to steal gold frequent the area, according to local residents.

Three of the wounded soldiers were evacuated to Niger’s capital, Niamey, and military reinforcements have been sent to the area, Issa said.

Niger has been battling a jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that’s killed thousands. While attacks by jihadi groups in the Agadez region have been rare in recent years, analysts said the insurgency could not be ruled out in Sunday’s attack.

“Simultaneously, armed banditry is common against civilian traveling vehicles, merchants, and gold prospectors in the area, but usually armed bandits don’t target state security forces as it happened in this incident,” said Rida Lyammouri, a senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Morocco-based think tank.

“Difficult to say at this stage who’s responsible. If jihadists are, they will most likely issue an official claim,” he said.

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