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French forces help free hostage soldiers in Niger; two jihadists are killed

NIAMEY, Niger — With the help of French special forces, Niger’s military killed the last two jihadists holed up inside a dormitory Friday on the grounds of a military garrison in the desert town of Agadez.

At least two soldiers who had been held hostage by the extremists were freed, according to French and Nigerian officials.

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For hours there had been conflicting reports on whether the Al Qaeda-linked attackers had succeeded in kidnapping several soldiers inside the military base.

But on Friday afternoon, Defense Minister Kardijo Mahamadou confirmed Niger’s troops had broken through the attackers’ defenses in the building where they had barricaded themselves.

Once inside the dorm, the soldiers found and freed the two hostages, who were unharmed, he said.

‘‘Our military forces and French special forces assaulted [the building] and the hostages — a total of two people — were freed,’’ he said.

‘‘There were two kidnappers who were hiding in the military dorm, and both were killed. The operation is now finished,’’ said Mahamadou.

Government spokesman Marou Amado confirmed that the assault was over: ‘‘There’s no one left. It’s over. We neutralized them,’’ he said by telephone.

In Paris, a Defense Ministry official confirmed that French forces had taken part in the operation and that the hostages had been freed, though he did not provide a number.

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