Terrorist Attacks Escalate in Niger, Dozens Killed This Week

A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes a Nigerien soldier while practicing buddy team movement drills in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. (US Army)
A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes a Nigerien soldier while practicing buddy team movement drills in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. (US Army)
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Terrorist Attacks Escalate in Niger, Dozens Killed This Week

A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes a Nigerien soldier while practicing buddy team movement drills in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. (US Army)
A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes a Nigerien soldier while practicing buddy team movement drills in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. (US Army)

Terrorist attacks have escalated in Niger, with more than 20 people, mostly civilians, reportedly killed this week.

“Two soldiers and a civilian have been killed in Niger in a fresh suspected terrorist attack in the restive region of Tillaberi,” the country’s defense ministry said.

The attack was carried out by “terrorists on some 20 motorcycles” in the Tabala village, some 100 kilometers east of the capital Niamey, according to a ministry statement released late on Wednesday.

Three attackers were killed in the clash and authorities were searching for the rest, the statement added.

Meanwhile, another terrorist group killed around 20 people in the Tillaberi village near the borders with Mali earlier this week, local newspapers reported on Wednesday.

The victims included women and children, they said.

“The Tillaberi region is in a state of mourning after the attack,” the newspapers wrote.

The military junta, which has ruled Niger since last year, sent a delegation from the transitional government to the village to offer condolences to the families of the victims.

On Monday night, the Support for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), affiliated to Al-Qaeda group, attacked an army position in a village near the border with Burkina Faso, and killed at least seven soldiers.

The Nigerian Defense Ministry said the army had successfully repelled the attack and killed dozens of terrorists.

The statement, broadcast on Nigerian state television, added that the transitional government and the ruling junta in Niger assured citizens that “the security and defense forces are moving forward in the fight against terrorism until it is eliminated.”

The latest security developments came as US troops will complete their withdrawal from Niger by the middle of September, the Pentagon said last Sunday.



Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
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Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

The six candidates vying to succeed ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash, focused on revitalizing Iran's sanctions-hit economy in their first debate ahead of next week's election.

The contenders -- five conservatives and a sole reformer -- faced off in a four-hour live debate, vowing to address the financial challenges affecting the country's 85 million people.

Originally slated for 2025, the election was moved forward after Raisi's death on May 19 in a helicopter crash in northern Iran.

Long before the June 28 election, Iran had been grappling with mounting economic pressures, including international sanctions and soaring inflation.

"We will strengthen the economy so that the government can pay salaries according to inflation and maintain their purchasing power," conservative presidential hopeful Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said.

Ghalibaf, Iran's parliament speaker, also pledged to work towards removing crippling US sanctions reimposed after then US president Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran's economy grew by 5.7 percent in the year to March 2024, with authorities targeting a further eight percent growth this year, driven by hydrocarbon exports.

The sole reformist candidate, Massoud Pezeshkian, said he would seek to build regional and global relations to achieve this growth.

He also called for easing internet restrictions in the country where Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and X are among the social media platforms banned.

Reformists, whose political influence has waned in the years since the 1979 revolution, have fallen in behind Pezeshkian after other moderate hopefuls were barred from standing.

Ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, however, said Iran did not need to repair its relations with the West.

He took aim at Trump, saying his policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran had "failed miserably".

- 'Maximum pressure' -

In the absence of opinion polls, Ghalibaf, Jalili and Pezeshkian are seen as the frontrunners for Iran's second highest-ranking job.

Ultimate authority in the state is wielded by the supreme leader rather the president with 85-year-old Ali Khamenei holding the post for 35 years.

Incumbent Vice President Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi said during the debate he would seek to lower inflation following a "political leadership style similar to that of Martyr Raisi."

Raisi easily won Iran's 2021 election in which no reformist or moderate figures were allowed to run. Backed by Khamenei he had been tipped to possibly replace the supreme leader.

Iran’s relations with the West continued to suffer, particularly following the outbreak of the October 7 Gaza war.

Tehran's support for the Palestinian armed group Hamas, coupled with ongoing diplomatic tensions over Iran's nuclear program have hastened the decline.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the only cleric in the running, blamed international sanctions for "blocking the economy" and "making financial transactions impossible".

Tehran's conservative mayor, Alireza Zakani, said the US sanctions were "cruel" but were not the main problem behind Iran's economic hardship.

"We should emphasize the economic independence of the country, de-dollarize the economy and rely on our own national currency," he said.