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Four Nigerien soldiers died during a dawn raid by dozens of armed assailants near the border with Nigeria, state television announced Friday.

“Armed men came in large numbers riding about 100 motorbikes and attacked the gendarme,” outpost at Bassira, a border village, in the Maradi region, a local elected official told AFP.

The attack left four dead and two wounded among Niger’s Defence and Security Forces (FDS), the state broadcaster reported, while a woman was injured by a stray bullet.

After a shootout that lasted an hour, the FDS pushed back the attackers who carried off their dead and wounded but abandoned three motorbikes, communications equipment and ammunition, according to the report.

“It’s an unprecedented attack for the area,” the elected official said, where gunmen dubbed “bandits” often kill, loot and terrorise the population.

“We are no longer dealing with cattle rustlers…,” Maradi regional governor Issoufou Mamane told state television after visiting the scene of the raid. “This cowardly and barbaric attack cannot go unpunished.”

The region shelters more than 46,000 Nigerian refugees who have fled the violence by armed gangs which have plagued the border for years, according to official figures.

The “bandits”, hiding out in dense forests, strike along the 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometre) frontier the two nations share.

Their armies have led joint operations to try to halt the attacks, but they also have to deal with Boko Haram jihadists and the rival Islamic State West Africa Province group.




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