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Niger’s Operation Almahaou pursues jihadists

Nigerien President Mahamdou Issoufou has ordered the immediate deployment of Special Forces dubbed Operation Almahaou to secure the west of…

Nigerien President Mahamdou Issoufou has ordered the immediate deployment of Special Forces dubbed Operation Almahaou to secure the west of the country.He made the decision at the end of a National Security Council meeting, held in the aftermaths of twin attacks that left more than 100 dead last Saturday in that part of the country.

Niger, which is heading for a presidential run-off vote on February 21, must also tackle the security challenges related to the aftermath of the first round. 

The attack on the villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye, which claimed at least 100 victims, is the deadliest perpetrated by jihadists against civilians since the beginning of insecurity in a part of the country bordering Mali.

President Issoufou took strong measures on Monday by ordering a heavy security buildup in the area.

At the end of an extraordinary security council meeting, an immediate deployment of 2,500 Special Forces under Operation Almahaou was announced.

Among the other measures taken by Issoufou, is the organization of a forum in Ouallam under the aegis of the Interior Minister and all township heads, villages and tribes of the two departments of Banibangou and Ouallam. 

The outbreak of violence against the backdtop of the election risks fueling intra-communal conflicts, according to the authorities, who are wary of further clashes.

Saturday’s attacks on villagers have not been claimed by jihadists, although the authorities blame them for the violence.

Niger is preparing to elect a successor to  Mahamadou Issoufou in a run-off pitting Mohamed Bazoum, the ruling party candidate, who polled 33.67 percent against his challenger Mahamane Ousmane, who secured 16.99 percent in the first round.