A twin suicide attack killed at least 21 people in northern Niger on Thursday.
French special forces participated in a military operation at an army camp in north-eastern Niger to oust Islamist militants after an attack, the French Defence Minister said on Friday.
“As I speak, the situation has been stabilised in Niger, particularly in Agadez, where our special forces intervened in support of the Nigerien forces, at the request of President Mahamadou Issoufou,” Jean-Yves Le Drian was quoted as saying by BFM television.
A twin suicide attack killed at least 21 people in northern Niger on Thursday: one targeted a military Barracks in Agadez and another a French-owned Uranium mine near Arlit. Mr. Le Drian said two Islamists who had been taken hostages were killed in the battle.
Karidjo Mahamadou, Niger’s Minister of Defence, however, said that there had not been any hostage taking.
“There were jihadists who had holed up in a dorm and had killed two of its occupants,” he was quoted as saying by French Radio France Internationale. He added that two extremists were killed on Friday morning.
Altogether, 10 jihadists who had worn belts packed with explosives were killed in the one-day operation, the minister said.
The suicide attacks were planned by Algerian Islamist, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, Mauritanian news website Al-Akhbar reported earlier on Friday.
“It was Belmokhtar who directly supervised the attacks” that hit an army barracks in the northern town of Agadez and a French uranium mine near Arlit on Thursday, the spokesman of Mr. Belmokhtar’s group was quoted as saying.
Signatories in Blood spokesman, Hassan Ould Khalil, said the attacks were coordinated with the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, MUJWA, which had claimed responsibility for the attacks.The MUJWA, along with two other extremist groups in 2012, took control of neighbouring Mali’s vast north.
Mr. Belmokhtar is an Algerian Islamist commander who was behind January’s bloody hostage-taking at a gas plant in Algeria.
The Niger attacks were carried out to avenge the death of Abou Zeid, an Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, leader Mr. Ould Khalil said.
Abou Zeid was reportedly killed in northern Mali by the French army in February, a month after France launched Operation Serval to oust Islamist insurgents from the West African country’s north. The attack on the uranium mine run by French company Areva was aimed at French security forces protecting the site, Mr. Ould Khalil said.