More than 20 soldiers in Niger have been killed in an attack by gunmen on a camp for Malian refugees in the West African country.
Prime Minister Brigi Rafini said the attack occurred in the western Tahoua region on Thursday.
“We received information of an attack on the camp in Tassalit,” Rafini said. “For the moment we are told there are 22 dead, but that is not a total death toll.”
A local official said the attackers targeted a military post near the refugee camp, adding three soldiers were also wounded.
The camp sheltered a group of Malians who fled to neighboring Niger after militants, some of them linked to al-Qaeda, seized a desert in northern Mali four years ago.
France, a former colonizer of the region, deployed military forces to Mali in 2013 to push the militants back, but violence continues in the Sahel region.
Last year, a total number of 54,000 Malian refugees registered in Niger, while 3000 others were still waiting for registration, according to the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR.
There was no information on whether any of the civilians at the camp had also been harmed in the Thursday attack.
Niger’s small army is busy fighting Takfiri Boko Haram militants, who launch attacks across the country’s southern border from Nigeria. The army is also trying to prevent an overflow of attacks from Mali.