Security forces in Niger killed 57 Boko Haram militants in a counteroffensive after the Islamists attacked a village, the landlocked African nation's defence ministry said. Close to 15 troops were reportedly injured in the attack.

Heavily armed extremists raided the Gueskerou village on motorbikes and cars in the south-eastern Diffa region. Security personnel responded swiftly and managed to save a number of civilians.

About 300,000 refugees who have been displaced by internal conflicts reside in Diffa region, where a state of emergency is currently in force.

At least two civilians were wounded in the attack, Reuters reported. "Among the enemy, there were 57 terrorists killed, a Toyota pick-up recovered along with a 60mm mortar, two RPG 7s [rocket propelled grenade launchers], five machine guns, 20 AK-47s and a lot of ammunition," a defence ministry statement said.

A key Boko Haram leader was also among those killed, according to local reports. Spokesman Colonel Toure Abdoul Aziz added that the government congratulated the security forces for their prompt response.

Boko Haram's atrocities originated in neighbouring Nigeria and have spilled into Niger and other African nations over the past few years. Niger's military is among the regional force, which was set up to tackle the growing menace of Boko Haram. The Islamist group, which intends to carve out a Sharia-controlled region for itself, has killed as many as 20,000 people in the region.

Niger Boko Haram attack
Niger soldiers provide security for an anti-Boko Haram summit in Diffa city Reuters file photo