Twenty-two soldiers have been killed in an attack blamed on jihadists against a camp in Niger sheltering Malian refugees, a security official said on Friday.
The attack against the camp in Tazalit, in the Tahoua region some 300 kilometres (200 miles) northeast of the capital Niamey, took place in broad daylight on Thursday.
“Some 30 to 40 heavily armed men speaking in Tuareg carried out the attack, killing 22 soldiers,” the official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
He said the attack was “probably carried out by jihadists.”
The UN refugee agency, which confirmed the death toll, said in a statement that five soldiers were also hurt in the attack, while three managed to escape.
The assailants “headed directly to the camp’s security post and machine-gunned the soldiers who were having lunch,” the security official added.
They left hours later after seizing a vehicle as well as weapons, food, medical supplies and clothing.
The UN refugee agency says about 60,000 Malians have sought refuge in Niger, which is also sheltering around 80,000 Nigerians who have fled attacks by Boko Haram jihadists..
Boko Haram in recent months has escalated its attacks inside Niger, with at least 26 soldiers killed in the southeastern town of Bosso in June.
In attacks attributed to other jihadist groups active in the region, at least two civilians were killed last month at the Tabareybarey refugee camp in western Niger, near the border with Mali.
Despite a peace accord and a 2013 international military intervention, large tracts of Mali are still not controlled by domestic or foreign troops and remain subject to attacks by jihadists.