Niger: France ′kills′ suspect in murders of aid workers | News | DW | 21.12.2021

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Niger: France 'kills' suspect in murders of aid workers

French armed forces have said they killed a senior "Islamic State" member believed to have been involved in a 2020 attack that left six French aid workers dead.

 A soldier stands guard at sunset in Niamey

France said the operation was in cooperation with Nigerien authorities

The French Defense Ministry on Tuesday said it had killed a leading member of a group linked to the so-called "Islamic-State" (IS) who had allegedly been involved in a 2020 attack on French aid workers in Niger

The suspect was killed on Monday by a French drone strike as he was riding a motorcycle, French officials said.

A French unit was sent on the ground to search the area and formally identify the man after the airstrike, the military said in a statement. The operation was conducted "in close coordination" with the Niger's authorities, the statement added.

The army identified the jihadi as Soumana Boura, one of the IS leaders of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara group (ISGS).

French fight in tri-border region

The French military said Boura's killing helped to fight the expansion of the ISGS in what is known as the three-border region. It added that French armed forces "remain determined to fight the armed terrorist groups with their Sahelian partners and their allies."

The three-border region is located between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali has been the center of deadly jihadi attacks by IS and al-Qaeda affiliates for years.

A map illustrating active militant groups in the tri-border region

Several attacks have repeatedly occurred in the region despite security efforts by authorities, with gunmen on motorbikes fleeing across the border into Mali after their raids. 

French forces have been present in the Sahel region for over nine years. France has recently started winding down its presence there, leaving northern Mali bases and refocusing its presence on the southern cities of Gao, Menaka and Niamey. 

By 2023, French troops in the region — currently around 5,000 — are to be drawn down by about half. 

2020 killings

In August 2020, six French nationals and their two local guides were killed on a visit to a nature reserve in the West African country.

Three armed men on two motorcycles attacked a four-wheel drive carrying the French humanitarian workers, their Nigerien driver and a guide. They were visiting a wildlife park some 60 kilometers (about 40 miles) southeast of Niger's capital, Niamey. 

Five of the aid workers, the drive and the guide were shot dead, and another worker's throat was slit. 

The attackers then set fire to the car before fleeing. IS claimed the attack a month later. 

Earlier this year, France said its soldiers killed an IS leader, who had allegedly ordered the 2020 attack, in the tri-border region.

Authorities in Niger have arrested 11 people over their suspected involvement in the attack.

fb/rt (AFP, Reuters, AP)