Niger - France 'Kills' Suspect in Murders of Aid Workers

A map of West Africa.
21 December 2021

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

The French Defense Ministry on Tuesday said it 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.

Six French nationals and their two local guides were killed on a visit to a nature reserve in the West African country. IS claimed responsibility for the attack.

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 him 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 jihadist as Soumana Boura, one of the bosses of the IS in the Greater Sahara (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 and has been the center of deadly jihadist attacks by IS and al-Qaida affiliates for years.

Several attacks have repeatedly occurred in the region despite security efforts by authorities. Gunmen on motorbikes flee across the border into Mali after their raids.

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

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

The 2020 killings

Three armed men on two motorcycles attacked a four-while drive carrying six humanitarian workers, their Nigerien driver and a guide while visiting a wildlife park some 60 kilometers 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.

In August, the French army 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.

(AFP, Reuters)

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