NIAMEY - French special forces and Niger troops shot dead on Friday the last two Islamists 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-Qaida's North African operations, said in a statement that his Mulathameen brigade organized Thursday's raids with the MUJWA militant group in retaliation for Niger's role in a French-led war on Islamists 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 program. The attacks raised fears that Mali's conflict could spread to neighboring West African states and brought an Islamist threat closer to France's economic interests.
Niger's government said French special forces had helped to end the resistance of two Islamists fighters who were holed up inside the army barracks in the desert town of Agadez early on Friday.