The Nigerien government announced on Thursday, June 20, that French and Nigerien forces, supported by the US military, neutralized at least 18 militants in Tongo Tongo (Tillabéri region) over a two-week period. According to senior officials, the French-led operation was conducted between June 8-18 and targeted positions held by the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group.
Additional military operations targeting Islamist militants are possible in southwestern Niger in the near term.
Several militant groups have been active along the Niger-Mali-Burkina Faso border area, which the countries' respective governments have had difficulty securing in recent years. Officials placed the Tillabéri region under a state of emergency in March 2017 due to an increase in attacks targeting refugee camps and security forces. The order remains in place until September 2019. Islamic State (IS) later claimed responsibility for a May 14 attack on security forces in Tongo Tongo (Tillabéri region) that killed 28 soldiers.
IS has increasingly attributed these attacks to fighters from its West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction which had largely limited its operations to the Lake Chad region. The recent claims signal a shift to attribute attacks to ISWAP in areas previously associated with IS in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). While IS appears to have grouped ISGS under ISWAP, it is likely ISGS continues to operate independently in the Sahel.
Niger faces a high threat from terrorism, including armed attacks and abductions. Militant Islamist cells from various Nigerian and Malian terrorist groups - including Boko Haram, Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Al-Mourabitoun - are all active in the country.
Individuals in Niger are advised to monitor the situation, remain vigilant for militant and criminal activity, and exercise vigilance when visiting sites deemed likely to be targeted in an attack (e.g. government buildings, prominent hotels, etc.). Many Western governments advise their citizens against all travel to areas located in the north and west of the country.
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