World Bulletin/News Desk
French special forces and Niger troops shot dead on Friday the last two gunmen involved in a twin attack on a military base and a French uranium mine in Niger claimed by the mastermind of January's mass hostage-taking in Algeria.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a one-eyed veteran of al Qaeda's North African operations, said in a statement that his Mulathameen brigade organised Thursday's raids with the MUJWA militant group in retaliation for Niger's role in a French-led war in Mali.
The coordinated dawn attacks killed 24 soldiers and one civilian and damaged machinery at Areva's Somair mine in the remote town of Arlit, a key supplier of uranium to France's nuclear power programme.
Niger's government said French special forces had helped to end the resistance of two fighters who were holed up inside the army barracks in the desert town of Agadez early on Friday.
"Niger is more determined that ever to fight terrorism in all its forms," the government spokesman, Justice Minister Amadou Marou, told state television.
He said a total of 10 died in the attacks: eight in Agadez and two in Arlit. "The government reassures national and international opinion that every step is being taken to protect people and property across the whole of the country."
Two military cadets were killed, the minister said. However, a military source, asking not to be identified, said the cadets were shot dead in Friday's raid.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM television that special forces had intervened at the request of Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou. France stationed special forces in northern Niger to help protect its desert uranium mines, which provide a fifth of the fuel for France's nuclear reactors.
Belmokhtar, signing his statement with his pseudonym Khalid Abu al-Abbas, said the raids were a response to Issoufou's public claims that the fighters had been defeated in Mali.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Mayıs 2013, 11:08