For this report, FRANCE 24’s team embedded with Niger’s special forces. In this epicentre of West African jihadism, local “franchises” of the Islamic State group and al Qaeda are competing to establish a vast “caliphate” across the Sahel region. Local villagers are caught in the crossfire, afraid that jihadists may infiltrate the population and living in fear of reprisals. Some 4,000 civilians died in this zone in 2019 alone. Niger’s government has twin aims: to keep people safe and to recover territory, in order to prevent the “caliphate” rising from its ashes on the African continent.