Fighting in southeastern Niger has left 10 soldiers wounded and several dozen jihadist fighters dead, the government said.
Jihadists from the Boko Haram group on Tuesday attacked a special intervention batallion positioned at the airport in N’Guigmi, a garrison town in the Diffa region near the border with Nigeria, Niger’s defence ministry said.
The clash, which started around 01:50 am (0050 GMT), lasted about 20 minutes before the attackers were routed towards the banks of Lake Chad, the ministry said in a statement late Tuesday.
With air support, the attackers were located as they got into pirogue canoes on the lake, it added.
Several dozen “terrorists” were “neutralised” through “surgical” air strikes, the statement said.
Lake Chad, a vast expense of water and marshland, straddles the borders of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
It has been the site of frequent attacks from the jihadist fighters of Boko Haram as well as Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
This week’s clash is the worst reported between the army and jihadists after several months of calm in the region, the scene of jihadist attacks since 2015.
In June, seven soldiers were killed after their vehicle hit a landmine in the Diffa region.
The area also has thousands of internally displaced people and Nigerian refugees dependant on humanitarian organisations and the local population who face food shortages due to harvests hit by drought, regional authorities say.
Niger, which has been led by military leaders since a July 26 coup, is one of the poorest nations in the world.
It is also facing a deadly jihadist insurgency in the west near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso.