|Follow us on:|
French interests have become top targets in attacks by al-Qaida linked rebels, who vow to retaliate for the French military intervention in northern Mali.
Defence minister Karidjo Mahamadou said 20 Nigerien soldiers and five assailants died in an attack on the military barracks in Agadez, the main town in northern Niger, and in another raid on a factory owned by Somair, a subsidiary of the French group Areva in Arlit, further north in the West African country.
The attacks also left 30 people injured including 16 military personnel and 14 civilians, Mahamadou added.
“This Thursday, at around 5:30 a.m. (local time), two groups of individuals armed with explosives on board Toyota 4×4, simultaneously assaulted the Agadez military barracks and the factory of the Somair mining company, with the firm determination to carry out attacks there,” the defence minister said in a communique.
The defence minister linked the twin attacks to the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), a group allied with al-Qaida’s North African branch AQIM in their nine-month occupation of northern Mali.
A three-day national mourning will be observed across the entire national territory starting on Thursday, according to the announcement.
The attacks were the first since the crisis erupted in neighbouring Mali in March 2012, when the military seized power in a coup and rebels including AQIM and MUJAO swept through northern Mali soon afterwards.
With the backing of Mali’s former colonial power France and allied African troops, the rebels have been largely driven out of the desert north since January 2013.