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Gunmen killed at least 17 Nigerien troops in an ambush near the Malian border, where several jihadist groups are active, and another 11 soldiers are missing, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

The attack on Tuesday occurred near the town of Tongo Tongo, where fighters from an Islamic State affiliate killed four U.S. special forces and four Nigerien soldiers in an ambush in October 2017, spokesman Abdourahamane Zakaria told Reuters.

Zakaria did not identify the perpetrators of the attack, which is one of the deadliest against the military in Niger’s west in recent years.

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Jihadists, including affiliates of al-Qaeda and Islamic State, have stepped up attacks on military and civilian targets across West Africa’s Sahel region this year, particularly along the porous borders between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Niger also faces a threat in its southeast from Boko Haram and a splinter group affiliated with Islamic State, which are both based in Nigeria but frequently strike in neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

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