Terror deaths double in Niger

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Last year terrorism surged in Niger, with double the terrorism-related fatalities compared to the previous year.

This is according to the latest Global Terrorism Index 2024, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). The Institute found that terrorism in Niger rebounded after a decline in 2022. The number of terrorist attacks increased to 61 in 2023, up from 54 in the previous year. Deaths more than doubled, with 468 deaths in 2023 compared to 193 deaths in 2022, indicating a significant escalation in the lethality of attacks.

Military personnel accounted for the majority of terrorism-related casualties (73%), resulting in Niger becoming the country with the third-highest military death toll in 2023.

Niger’s deadliest attack of 2023 occurred when gunmen killed at least 200 soldiers in an ambush on four military columns in Tillabéri in November. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, however local media outlets reported that the attack was a joint operation by Islamic State (IS) and JNIM (Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin).

According to the IEP, the Tillabéri region recorded the highest number of attacks and deaths. This region is in the unstable tri-border area shared with Mali and Burkina Faso, and has been hit hard by the Islamic insurgency in the Central Sahel. Terrorist attacks occurred in seven of Niger’s eight regions, with Tillaberi recording 59% of the country’s terrorist attacks and 84% of casualties. However, some regions recorded a fall in terrorism, most notably a number of areas near the border with Mali.

Groups such as IS and JNIM were reportedly moving further into Niger to exploit ongoing political and security upheavals following the July coup, leading to the decline in terrorist activity at the border.

JNIM and IS continued to be the most active groups in Niger in 2023. The joint attack between JNIM and IS in Tillaberi in November 2023 drove deaths by JNIM in Niger to their highest level, from zero recorded in 2022 to 208 deaths in 2023. IS was responsible for three attacks and 33 deaths, all located in the Tillabéri and Tahoua regions. The IS-affiliated ISWA (Islamic State West Africa) killed a further 31 people in nine attacks in 2023, compared to 39 deaths and nine attacks in the prior year.

“However, there is a large degree of uncertainty over exactly how active these groups are, as over 62% the attacks in Niger in 2023 were not claimed by any terrorist group,” the GTI noted.

“Like other countries in the Sahel region, Niger faces a significant threat to national security from the expansion of Islamist extremist groups, especially in the wake of the July 2023 coup. The resulting political instability may provide extremist groups with increased opportunities to recruit and incite violence, further threatening the stability of the wider Sahel region,” the report concluded.