Islamic State (ISIS)-linked militants claimed responsibility for an attack on a military installation in western Niger near the border of Mali on Wednesday, which killed at least 71 people and left 12 injured.
The SITE intelligence group, which tracks jihadist media, said fighters from the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed responsibility for the attack, according to CBS News. The group splintered off from Boko Haram and is made up of 3,000 men.
The onslaught took place on Tuesday and caused President Mahamadou Issoufou to cut his overseas trip to Egypt short so he could return home to deal with the crisis.
The terrorist group reportedly numbered in the hundreds and was heavily armed as they descended upon the unsuspecting military camp. Niger’s defense ministry claimed “a substantial number of terrorists were neutralized” in the process.
Two years ago, four U.S. service members were killed, along with four Nigerien soldiers, when they were ambushed by militants just 30 miles from the sight of this week’s carnage.
The violence erupted just days before a summit where French President Emmanuel Macron was set to address the role of French soldiers in West African’s Sahel region. The area has been seen as a hotbed of terrorist activity, Islamic extremism and kidnapping.
Nigerien and French forces have been unable to quell the violence as reports of military outpost attacks have increased, due to their cache of weapons and vehicles.
The extremists are reportedly taking advantage of the area’s instability in an attempt to initiate a jihadist takeover.
After intervening in 2013 to oust various jihadists from power, France has now launched its biggest overseas military operation in West and Central Africa to assist with the threat.
Macron is expected to clarify France’s future role in the region during this week’s summit with West African leaders.