Suspected Islamist militants kill at least 50 civilians in Niger
Niamey, Jan 3 (efe-epa).- Suspected Islamist gunmen have killed at least 50 civilians and wounded nearly 20 in simultaneous attacks on two villages in Niger, authorities said on Sunday.
The latest in a series of militant attacks in the landlocked Sahel nation’s troubled western Tillaberi region took place on Saturday near the border zone with neighboring Mali.
A Nigerian interior ministry source told EFE that the gunmen attacked Tchoma Bangou village in the Tillabéri region, located about 150 km north of capital Niamey.
At least 50 civilians were killed in Tchoma Bangou, the source said.
Another group of militants attacked the neighboring village of Zaroumdareye, leaving an unknown number of victims wounded or dead.
Witnesses told EFE that the assailants, carrying different types of weapons, came from the Malian territory, where they supposedly have their bases, to launch the simultaneous attacks on the two villages.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. But it bears many similarities to those carried out by Islamist militants linked to the al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Niger and the entire Sahel region.
The attack came as election officials announced results for the first round of Niger’s presidential vote held last Sunday.
The initial results put the ruling party candidate and former Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum in the lead.
But he will have to go for the second round on Feb.21 as he failed to get 50 percent of the votes.
Defeating the Islamic State and the Front for the Support of Islam and Muslims (an ally of al-Qaeda) is going to be one of the most serious challenges for the next president of Niger.
The country has suffered deadly militant attacks previously.
At least 70 soldiers were killed in an attack on a military headquarters in Niger in December 2019, when dozens of heavily armed attackers, allegedly from neighboring Mali, surrounded the barracks in Inates, near the Malian border.
The attackers stormed into the military base. The attackers took all the weapons and ammunition they could carry and set fire to the building before fleeing. EFE-EPA