DIFFA, Niger (Reuters) - Niger’s interior minister said on Saturday that no Chadian troops have been deployed in its southeastern region of Diffa after a deadly attack carried out by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram two weeks ago.
Several military sources had said Chad had sent 2,000 troops to Niger to prepare a counterattack against the militants, whose attack on June 3 killed 24 Niger troops in Bosso, a town in the Lake Chad region on the Nigerian border.
The attack, one of the deadliest in Niger by Boko Haram, prompted Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou to fly one week later to Chad for talks with his counterpart Idriss Deby.
The aim of the discussion “was mainly to accelerate the implementation ... of the FMM (mixed multinational force) and I think it’s already done”, Niger’s Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum told Reuters in an interview.
The multinational force includes Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin.
“It seems Chadian troops are already on the ground, they are in Nigeria, they’re not in Niger”, Bazoum added.
Asked about the 2,000 Chadian troops believed to be sent to Niger after Bosso attack, he said: “I think it was a particularly vivid imagination of some journalists.”
Chad was instrumental in forcing the Nigeria-based Boko Haram to cede territory last year, undermining its seven-year campaign to carve out a Nigerian caliphate.
But guerrillas have since ramped up attacks in remote border areas around Lake Chad, where the borders of Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria meet.
Seven gendarmes were killed and 12 others wounded in the group’s latest attack on Thursday on a village in Niger, the military said on Friday.
Boko Haram’s insurgency has killed tens of thousands of people and driven more than 2 million people to flee their homes.
Writing by Marine Pennetier; Editing by Tom Heneghan