April 24, 2024

Boko Haram ambushes Niger soldiers guarding agricultural site

Boko Haram ambushes Niger soldiers guarding agricultural site

Boko Haram fighters ambushed and wounded five Nigerien soldiers who were protecting a key agricultural site near the Nigeria border, local authorities said Wednesday.

The site is one of two in Niger’s southeastern Diffa region created to boost rice and wheat production and generate more than 12,000 jobs, according to the agriculture ministry.

Diffa governor General Mahamadou Ibrahim Bagadoma said on national television that the soldiers were ambushed “by Boko Haram elements” as they headed to a newly created post to secure the agricultural development programme in Lada.

“We are determined to continue this (cultivation) work in the interest of the people,” the general said.

At the end of last month, Niger’s military regime, which came to power in a July 26 coup, launched work to develop the two agricultural sites.

The project is estimated to cost more than two billion CFA francs ($3.2 million).

“Job creation should reduce unemployment with the possibility of stopping the massive recruitment of young people by Boko Haram,” a former local elected official told AFP.

The work at Lada should also protect residents from flooding caused by high water levels of the Komadougou Yobe River, which forms the border with Nigeria.

Attacks by Boko Haram — a jihadist group originating in Nigeria — spilled over into Niger in 2015 and jeopardise production of Diffa’s main resources: peppers and fishing.

The attacks also hinder the completion of vital projects such as schools, clinics and drinking water wells.

Diffa, one of the country’s most deprived regions, is home to 300,000 Nigerian refugees and internally displaced people, who fled the violence of Boko Haram and its dissident branch, the Islamic State West Africa Province, or ISWAP.