At least 70 civilians in Niger were killed by suspected militants on Saturday, in the latest attacks to rock the landlocked Sahel nation’s troubled western Tillaberi region, security sources said.
About 49 villagers were killed and 17 people wounded in the village of Tchombangou, said a security source, who requested anonymity.
“The attackers came to surround the village and killed up to 50 people. The wounded were taken to Ouallam hospital,” a local radio station journalist said on condition of anonymity.
A second source, a senior official in Niger’s interior ministry who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that around 30 other villagers had been killed in the village of Zaroumdareye.
Niger’s government was not immediately available to comment.
The attacks took place as election officials announced results for the first round of Niger’s presidential vote that put ruling party candidate and former government minister Mohamed Bazoum in the clear lead, with a runoff set for next month.
The vast and unstable Tillaberi region is located in the so-called tri-border area, a jihadist-plagued zone where the porous borders of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso converge.
Four thousand people across the three nations died in 2019 from jihadist violence and ethnic bloodshed stirred by Islamists, according to the UN.
Seven Nigerien soldiers were killed in an ambush in Tillaberi on December 21.
Niger is also being hammered by jihadists from Nigeria, the cradle of a decade-old insurgency launched by Boko Haram.
Last month 34 villagers were massacred in the southeastern region of Diffa, on the Nigerian border, the day before municipal and regional elections that had been repeatedly delayed because of poor security.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)