100 dead in attacks on two villages in western Niger

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#Niamey (AFP)

“#Terrorists” killed around 100 people in two villages in western #Niger, the latest in a series of civilian massacres that rocked the jihadist-ravaged #Tillaberi region, a local mayor said on #Sunday.

The attacks on the villages of #Tchoma #Bangou and #Zaroumadareye took place on #Saturday just as the results of the first round of presidential elections were announced.

They were led by “terrorists who came riding on a hundred motorcycles,” said #Almou #Hassane, the mayor of #Tondikiwindi commune which administers the two villages.

“There were up to 70 dead in #Tchoma #Bangou and 30 dead in #Zaroumadareye,” he told AFP, adding that he had just returned from the scene of the attacks.

The two villages are 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital #Niamey.

“There were also 75 wounded, some of whom were evacuated to #Niamey and #Ouallam for treatment,” #Hassane said.

The attackers split into two columns to carry out simultaneous attacks on the two villages, seven kilometers (four miles) apart, the mayor added.

#Prime #Minister #Brigi #Rafini led a delegation to the region on #Sunday, while #President #Mahamadou #Issoufou will hold an extraordinary security council on #Monday, the presidential office said.

#Local officials first reported the raids on #Saturday, but the death toll was not clear, with one source putting it at around 50.

#Issoufou #Issaka, a former government minister from the region, said the jihadists carried out the double massacre after the local population lynched two of them. #He gave an estimated death toll of 83.

– ‘#Coward and barbarian’ –

A senior regional official said the attack was carried out at noon (11:00 GMT), at the same time as the results of the first round of legislative and presidential elections were announced.

#Election officials announced that ruling party candidate and former minister #Mohamed #Bazoum won the first round of the presidential ballot in #Niger, which took place last weekend. #Bazoum promised to step up the fight against the jihadists.

#Bazoum said his thoughts were with the families of the victims, adding in a video message that the attacks showed “terrorist groups pose a serious threat to the cohesion within our communities and a danger like no other.”

#Issoufou had previously expressed his condolences in a statement on #Twitter in which he also condemned “the cowardly and barbaric attack”.

The two villages are located in the vast and unstable region of #Tillaberi, located in the “tri-border” zone, where the porous borders of #Niger, #Mali and #Burkina #Faso converge. The region has been under jihadist assault for years.

#Four thousand people in the three countries died in 2019 as a result of jihadist violence and ethnic bloodshed caused by #Islamists, according to the UN.

#Seven #Nigerien soldiers were killed in an ambush in #Tillabéri on #December 21.

#Motorcycle trips have been banned in #Tillabéri since last #January in order to prevent incursions by very mobile jihadists on two wheels.

A landlocked state located in the heart of the #Sahel, #Niger is also hammered by jihadists in #Nigeria, the cradle of a ten-year-old insurgency launched by #Boko #Haram.

#Boko #Haram claimed responsibility for an attack on #December 12 that left 34 people dead in the village of #Toumour, in southeastern #Niger, near the border with #Nigeria.

#Last month, 34 villagers were slaughtered in the south-eastern #Diffa region, also on the #Nigerian border, on the eve of municipal and regional elections which had been repeatedly postponed due to lack of security.

The second round of the presidential election is scheduled for #February 20.

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