President Mahamadou Issoufou said on Wednesday that he will cut short a trip to Egypt to address the situation, The Associated Press reported. AP also said it spoke to a presidential adviser, who confirmed the body count in the overnight assault.
According to a statement on Twitter, the country’s presidential office wrote that Issoufou was “interrupted” and has to head back to Niger “following the tragedy.”
Some 100 extremists ambushed the army camp, coming amid a surge of terrorist attacks in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali.
In a televised statement, the country’s ministry of defense said that “a substantial number of terrorists were neutralized” in the attack. Another 12 military personnel were wounded and others are still missing, according to Qatari state-run TV station Al Jazeera.
“The combat (was) of a rare violence, combining artillery shells and the use of kamikaze vehicles by the enemy,” army spokesman Colonel Boubacar Hassan said on state television, reported Reuters, which said Islamists were behind the attack.
No terrorist groups have yet to claim responsibility.
Four U.S. service members were killed, along with four Nigerian soldiers, about two years ago, occurring just miles from the attack, Fox News noted.
Militants with links to the ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorist groups have mounted increasingly lethal attacks across West Africa’s Sahel region this year despite the commitment of thousands of regional and foreign troops to counter them.
The violence has hit Mali and Burkina Faso the hardest, rendering large swathes of those countries ungovernable, but it has also spilled into Niger, which shares long and porous borders with its two neighbors.
In early December, the president of Burkina Faso said that more than a dozen people were killed during a suspected terrorist attack on a Protestant church in Hantoukoura, located in the east of the West African country.
On Twitter, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said Sunday that he condemned “the barbaric attack” in the town of Hantoukoura. He added that several people were wounded.
“I condemn the barbaric attack on the Protestant Church of Hantoukoura in the department of Foutouri which left 14 dead and several wounded,” he wrote on Twitter, according to a translation from French to English. “I extend my deepest condolences to the grieving families and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.”
Since July, hundreds of people have fled the area for the capital Niamey or other nearby towns, the sources said, leaving their cattle and houses untended and unguarded.
The region has been in crisis since 2012, when ethnic Tuareg rebels and loosely-aligned jihadists seized the northern two-thirds of Mali, forcing France to intervene the following year to beat them back.
But the jihadists have since regrouped and expanded their range of influence.
Reuters contributed to this report.