An attack by hundreds of Boko Haram fighters on a town in Niger's jihadist-plagued southeast killed 16 soldiers and wounded nine others, Defence Minister Alkassoum Indatou told AFP on Wednesday.
In the assault late on Tuesday "the positions of our defence and security forces in Baroua, in the Diffa region, were attacked by several hundred Boko Haram elements who came from Lake Chad", the minister said in a statement.
The attack came only two months after around 6,000 people returned to the Baroua area in June after fleeing jihadist attacks in 2015, under a programme to encourage around 26,000 inhabitants in the region to go back to their homes.
Authorities had said that 19 villages like Baroua where more than 26,000 had returned recently were under "reinforced" protection -- although Diffa governor Issa Lemine also hailed the "positive development of the security situation" as he welcomed returnees.
Those who fled had been living in safer villages, UN camps or with relatives elsewhere in the region.
Around 300,000 displaced people from Niger or neighbouring Nigeria have found shelter in the Diffa region from jihadist groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State group affiliate ISWAP, according to the UN.
Earlier this month, Niger said it would build an airbase there to step up its anti-jihadist fight.