NIAMEY, Niger (AP) — The death toll from an attack by Islamic extremists on Niger’s military last week has risen to at least 89, making it the most deadly attack of its kind in years in the West African nation.
The fatalities have risen dramatically from 25 that the government initially said were killed last week.
In addition to the soldiers killed, at least 77 extremists were killed by Niger’s army and its foreign allies, most notably France and the United States, according to a statement issued Sunday by the government. There will be three days of national mourning beginning Monday, the government announced.
Islamic extremists attacked the Chinagrodrar Advanced Military post on Thursday near the border with Mali. The military’s response, which included air support, pushed the extremists from Niger, the government said.
No group has yet claimed responsibility but the attack bore the hallmarks of an Islamic State-linked group that said it was behind the December ambush near the town of Inates that killed 71 and was previously the most deadly attack of its kind in Niger.
“The government calls on the population to be more vigilant, more serene and united, and reaffirms its determination to continue the fight against terrorism until the final victory,” the government statement said.
The increase in the death toll as a summit opens in Pau, France, that is to be attended by French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger Mauritania. Those countries make up the G5 Sahel group that are working with France against the threat of extremists in the region.