Niger army chief replaced


Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou replaced the head of the army after two of the country’s deadliest attacks killed at least 160 soldiers and prompted a rethink in the battle against jihadist groups, government said.

Ahmed Mohamed led the army for more than two years in a period marked by a steep rise in militant attacks linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda that culminated in a daytime raid on a remote army base killing at least 89 soldiers.

That attack came less than a month after another on an outpost that killed 71 soldiers and raised questions about Niger’s ability to contain the spread of jihadist groups across its western border.

Major General Salifou Modi was appointed Mohamed’s successor on Monday, government announced after a cabinet meeting.

Niger would launch a new military offensive against militants where past campaigns failed to curb violence despite the presence of French and American troops.

Attacks in Niger increased fourfold over the past year, killing more than 400, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a non-profit research organisation.

Military campaigns by armies in the Sahel have been marred by human rights abuses, which analysts say pushed some civilians to the jihadists.

In addition to Islamist attacks, countries in the region, especially Mali and Burkina Faso, struggle with ethnic clashes between rival farming and herding communities.