Twenty soldiers, one civilian killed in western Niger

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Twenty soldiers and a civilian were killed in an attack in western Niger next to the border with Burkina Faso, the west African country's defence ministry said.

The security forces were attacked on Tuesday close to the village of Tassia in Tillaberi region, according to the ministry's statement on state television.

It blamed the attack on a coalition of armed groups, adding that a further nine people were wounded and two vehicles damaged.

The statement said the soldiers had killed dozens of militants while defending themselves from the attack and search operations were ongoing for the rest of the perpetrators.

In March, at least 23 Nigerien soldiers were killed in the same insurgency-hit Tillaberi region. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

Niger is one of several West African countries battling Islamist insurgencies that have spread outwards from Mali over the past 12 years, killing thousands and uprooting millions of people.

Frustrations over authorities' failure to protect civilians has spurred military coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger since 2020.

(Reporting by Boureima Balima; Writing by Anait Miridzhanian; Editing by Alison Williams)