France investigates murder of 6 citizens in Niger

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PARISFrench counterterrorism prosecutors on Monday announced an investigation into an attack on a tourist excursion to Niger, West Africa, which left six people dead.

Sunday’s murderous rampage was carried out by men on motorcycles armed with guns who emerged from the bush by surprise. Most of the French victims were employees of ACTED, a French humanitarian group.

Two Nigerians were also killed in the attack: the guide, who ran the local Association of Giraffe Guides, and the driver of the tour vehicle.

The attack took place as the group set off to see local giraffes around the town of Koure, 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Niemey, the country’s capital.

The West African country has seen an increase in terrorism over the past three years, with Boko Haram and al-Queda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leading attacks in neighboring Mali, where other terrorist groups have also operated. A total of 20 civilians were also killed in the region in May.

France has military forces installed in the Sahel since 2014 as part of Operation Barkhane. Around 5,000 troops are stationed in N’Djamina, the capital of neighboring Chad, operating with the cooperation of the so-called G5 Sahel, the five West African countries and the former French colonies of Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Mali.

The effort to stabilize and neutralize all terrorist activity remains strong because the G5 Sahel is located directly in the south of France and Europe.

President Emmanuel Macron spoke of the deadly attack by telephone on Sunday evening with his Nigerien counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou.

A statement from the Elysee Palace on Monday expressed the urgency of discovering the motivation for the murders.

“Their determination to continue the common fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel remains intact,” the statement said.

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