18 Daesh fighters killed in joint operation with US in Niger

Nigerien soldiers in Diffa city. Niger is one of a number of poor, fragile countries in the Sahel region that have been hit by an extremist revolt. (Reuters)
Updated 20 June 2019
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18 Daesh fighters killed in joint operation with US in Niger

  • The June 8-18 operation took place in the northern border region of Tongo Tongo targeting a gang of Daesh terrorists implicated in an ambush on May 14, in which 28 Nigerien soldiers were killed
  • In October 2017, Daesh claimed responsibility for a raid which killed four US soldiers and five Nigerien troops in the same region

NIAMEY: Eighteen members of Daesh in the Greater Sahara were killed in a joint operation by US, French and Niger troops near Niger’s border with Mali, the defense ministry said Tuesday.
The June 8-18 operation took place in the northern border region of Tongo Tongo “targeting a gang of Daesh terrorists implicated in an ambush on May 14,” in which 28 Nigerien soldiers were killed, it said.
“The toll on the enemy side is: 18 terrorists neutralized, five terrorists, of whom three are Nigerien, taken prisoner.”
There were “no human or material losses” during the operation, which was codenamed ACONIT, it said.
“Important materiel was recovered including equipment belonging to the Niger armed forces which were taken by the attackers after the ambush,” the statement said.
In October 2017, Daesh claimed responsibility for a raid which killed four US soldiers and five Nigerien troops in the same region, a mere 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Malian border.
That ambush claimed the largest number of American lives in combat anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa since the “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia in 1993
On June 8, a US army vehicle hit a land mine near the town of Ouallam, about 100 kilometers north of the capital Niamey, but there were no casualties.
The area is near a major training camp where Nigerien soldiers are trained to serve in a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.
Late Tuesday, gunmen attacked a police station on the northern edge of the Niger capital Niamey, killing two policemen.
Niger is one of a number of poor, fragile countries in the Sahel region that have been hit by an extremist revolt.
The United States has a big base for drones in the northern city of Agadez and Niger recently gave the Americans permission to arm their drones.
The French also have a military base near Niamey airport and another at Madama in the north.
Various insurgent groups operate in the country’s west and north, and Nigeria’s Boko Haram is present in its southeast.
The country is part of the so-called G5 Sahel group set up to manage a coordinated response to the extremist insurgency.


Sri Lanka expands visa-free scheme halted after bombings

Updated 6 min 54 sec ago
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Sri Lanka expands visa-free scheme halted after bombings

  • Sri Lanka initially projected a 30 percent dip in the number of foreign holidaymakers after the attacks
  • Sri Lanka welcomed a record 2.33 million tourists in 2018

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has re-introduced and expanded a visa-free entry scheme for visitors in a bid to revive its flagging tourism sector after the deadly Easter bombings, officials said Wednesday.
The concession for tourists from 39 nations was suspended after militants bombed three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo on April 21 killing 258 people, including 45 foreigners.
“As the security situation has improved, the cabinet of ministers decided to revive the visa-free scheme and also extended it to seven more countries,” the government said in a statement.
A tourism official said foreign governments have relaxed travel advisories for Sri Lanka since the attacks.
There has also been a lift in the number of arrivals, which nosedived soon after the bombings blamed on a home-grown militant group, the official said.
The new countries added to the expanded scheme — which already allows travelers from the European Union, Australia and the United States to enter Sri Lanka without a visa — include China and India.
Visitors still have to obtain a visa on arrival, but the government has waived the $35 fee from August 1.
Sri Lanka initially projected a 30 percent dip in the number of foreign holidaymakers after the attacks.
The following month the number of tourists plunged to 37,800, down from 166,975 in April, according to official figures.
But they improved last month with some 63,000 visitors, although numbers are still down from 146,828 in June 2018.
Sri Lanka welcomed a record 2.33 million tourists in 2018, and was named the world’s top travel destination for 2019 by the Lonely Planet travel guide.