Niamey (AFP) - Niger is "in the process of winning the war" against Boko Haram jihadists who have staged attacks from neighbouring Nigeria since February last year, the army chief, General Seini Garba, said Tuesday.
Boko Haram, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in March, has stepped up attacks on areas of Niger, Chad and Cameroon that border Nigeria while also continuing a devastating campaign of suicide and shooting attacks on home soil.
The group's six-year campaign for a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has killed at least 17,000 people and made more than 2.6 million others homeless.
"We feel we are in the process of winning the war even though the terrorist group still has the capacity to harm," state radio quoted Garba as saying.
"We have made tremendous efforts and we have had great results in the fight against Boko Haram," Garba said, adding that he wanted "more success in 2016."
Garba however did not expand on the results obtained in the Boko Haram fightback, but a humanitarian source said direct clashes between the group and Niger soldiers had "almost ceased."
The military was using planes and had established a network around major cities and towns, making infiltration difficult, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In November, a resident of the flashpoint border region of Diffa said the group appeared to have "lost its aggressiveness, giving one the impression that they were staging raids merely to stock up on food.
"Before they used to attack day and night," the source added.
Niger's Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou had said in October that the main problem for the army was securing the border with Nigeria, where according to the UN, there were 74 Boko Haram attacks between February 6 and December 18 last year.
The Niger army has struggled to stop these raids.