Friday, 24 May 2013

French Special Forces troops stage Niger raid

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NIAMEY (AFP) - French special forces and local troops raided an army base Friday in northern Niger, ending a hostage seizure by Islamist fighters who had staged twin suicide bombings that killed at least 20 people. The dawn raid came after Signatories in Blood, a jihadist group that claimed Thursday's blasts, threatened to continue attacking Niger until the country withdraws its forces from neighbouring Mali, where they are part of a French-led military campaign against Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists. A French defence ministry official said two "terrorists" had been killed in the raid on a building at the Agadez army base, where Islamist fighters had holed up after the bombings and were holding a group of trainee soldiers hostage. An elected official in Agadez, the main city in Niger's mostly desert north, gave a higher toll, saying three "terrorists" and three hostages had been killed, as well as a civilian caught in the cross-fire. Niger's government did not confirm those numbers, while the French official said the toll was preliminary. Nigerien authorities would not say how many hostages had been taken. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed France had taken part in the raid. "The situation has stabilised as we speak, especially in Agadez, where our special forces intervened to back the Niger forces," he said on France's BFMTV. Read More HERE