Gunmen killed six security agents in south-western Niger, a security source and local resident said, in an area near the Malian border where jihadists have been increasingly active.
The attackers opened fire on a security post in the town of Abala, north-east of Niamey, on Wednesday killing four National Guard troops and two gendarmes, a security source told Reuters.
“Just when everyone was preparing to break the Ramadan fast, we heard shots in town. The exchange of fire lasted almost two hours,” a school teacher in Abala told a local radio station.
Militants and criminal gangs have long operated around the vast, desert border between Mali and Niger, even after a French-led military intervention pushed insurgent groups back from northern Mali in 2013.
Earlier this year, Niger declared a state of emergency along a portion of the border where Wednesday’s shooting took place.
Abala is home to a camp for refugees who fled violence in Mali. Repeated attacks in the Tillabery region near the border have led authorities to impose a dusk to dawn curfew.
Several French soldiers from a regional counter-terrorism operation were wounded on Thursday in a mortar attack on a United Nations’ peacekeeping camp in northern Mali.
Further south, Niger faces threats from the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram. Niger security forces killed 57 Boko Haram militants in April who attacked a village in the south-eastern Diffa region.