The Niger Army had on Sunday, repelled a second attack by Boko Haram on the border town of Diffa, a day before its parliament votes on whether to join a regional offensive against the Nigerian Islamist group.
Military sources said several people were killed during the furious early morning fighting, when Boko Haram gunmen made an unsuccessful attempt that was repelled by the army, to advance toward the town. Residents also confirmed hearing heavy weapons fire.
Some hours later, an explosion in Diffa’s market killed at least one person, left 20 injured but six of them in a critical condition, a Doctor in the town hospital reported.
Residents had initially said the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber. Nevertheless, the Defense Minister, Mahamadou Karijo, in a visit to pay homage to soldiers killed in Friday’s attack in Diffa, said the detonation was due to a stray shell.
“This morning, there was shelling by the terrorists but unfortunately, a shell fell on the market. There was one person killed and six wounded.
“The situation is under control and we hope that tomorrow parliament will authorize us to go on the offensive,” Karijo stated, accompanied by his Chadian counterpart.
An emergency services worker had earlier reported that at least five people died in the attack. Authorities imposed a curfew in the town from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. (1400 ET to 0000 ET).
Neighboring Chad had deployed some 2,500 troops to Niger’s southern border region and to Cameroon ahead of a planned military offensive by regional powers against Boko Haram.
Niger’s parliament would vote on Monday on a proposal to send its troops to Nigeria to help fight Boko Haram.
The governments of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Niger had on Saturday, agreed to establish an 8,700 strong regional force.
Chadian forces already crossed into Nigeria last week to the south of Lake Chad to attack Boko Haram in the town of Gambaru, bordering Cameroon.
In several towns across Cameroon, tens of thousands of people came out to the streets on Saturday to show their support for the army in the struggle against Boko Haram.
The Islamist group has killed scores of civilians and soldiers in cross-border attacks in recent months, including more than 50 in the town of Fotokol last week in an obvious retaliation for the Gambaru offensive.
Boko Haram had seized territory in north-eastern Nigeria as part of a five-year insurgency to carve out an Islamist state on the territory of Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer. About 10,000 people were killed last year.
Political analysts say the rebellion had been fueled by anger over government neglect of the destitute corner of the arid Sahel region, which has also been struck by severe drought in recent years.