Hundreds of heavily armed Islamist militants ambushed an army camp on 10 December in Niger, near the border with Mali. 71 soldiers were killed, the country’s defense ministry said.

57 of the attackers had been killed in the three-hour assault, the ministry said in a statement.

Niger is part of the G5 task force, together with Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Chad. Thousands of people have died since 2012 in the armed conflict across the Sahel region, which began in Mali, and has spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

France has deployed troops in the region to help local forces. Last month, thirteen French soldiers were killed in a collision between two helicopters during an operation against jihadist militants in northern Mali.

“If this doesn’t get resolved through accords and a clarification of commitments, we will have to ask ourselves questions and rethink our military positioning”, said French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.