Niamey - At least two soldiers were killed overnight while fighting off an attack by suspected Boko Haram jihadists in southeast Niger, a source in the security forces said on Tuesday.
"It was an audacious attack repelled by our valiant defence and security forces who lost two men all the same," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The insurgents from neighbouring Nigeria "came aboard about a dozen vehicles" early on Monday evening to attack a National Guard outpost near Chetimari, a village about 20km from the main regional town, Diffa, the source said.
"Since the Niger soldiers put up strong resistance, the Boko Haram elements withdrew to shell their positions from a distance," he added.
The arrival of reinforcements led by the head of the National Guard contingent in Diffa, Major Mohamed Alwata, enabled the army to drive the raiders back towards Nigerian territory, where Boko Haram first launched a bloody insurgency in 2009.
The attackers "also lost several men" during fighting that lasted "for hours", the source in the security forces said.
In mid-January, seven soldiers were killed and 17 others wounded in an attack at Toummour, in the east of the Diffa region close to the Lake Chad basin, a strategic area where the borders of four countries converge.
Chad and Cameroon are engaged alongside Nigeria and Niger in the battle against Boko Haram extremists, who first took the conflict across the border into Niger in 2015, with numerous raids around Diffa.
Between 2015 and 2017, UN monitors recorded 582 civilian casualties in 244 raids blamed on Boko Haram in the Diffa region. In 2017, 141 civilians were "wounded, killed and kidnapped," compared with 227 in 2016 and 214 in 2015, according to UN statistics with no further breakdown.
The United Nations makes no estimates of casualties in Niger's army, but the military is known to have lost dozens of troops since 2015.