At least 19 civilians were killed in a terrorist attack on a village in west Niger, near the border with Mali.
The governor of Tillaberi region said dozens of heavily armed attackers on motorbikes stormed the village of Gaigorou on the evening of April 17th.
Governor Ibrahim Tidjani Katiella told DPA news agency the attackers, who likely came from Mali, surrounded the village and then started killing the inhabitants.
A municipal official from Dessa confirmed that 19 people were killed and two others wounded in the attack.
He told AFP news agency that the assailants initially attacked people at a funeral, before going on to the village where they “shot at everyone they saw,” the official said.
The Tillaberi region is situated on the lawless “three-border” zone where the frontiers of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso converge and has regularly been the target of armed groups affiliated to the ISIS.
“What concerns us a lot is this escalation of violence and insecurity that is recently taking place in the region,” Katiella, the governor said.
Thirteen people were killed last month when armed men on motorbikes raided the villages of Zibane-Koira Zeno, Zibane Koira-Tegui and Gadabo.
Attacks against civilians have increased since the beginning of the year – more than 300 people died in three series of attacks in western Niger.
ISIS is being attributed with carrying them out, but nobody has actually claimed responsibility.
Earlier, on April 13th, a horrific incident left 20 pre-school children dead after a fire at a school on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Niamey.
The flames spread so quickly that one mourning father, who identified himself only by his first name, Abdoulaye, said it had already destroyed the classrooms by the time firefighters arrived at the scene.
“Rescuers set off rapidly and the fire was put out… but the intensity of the fire was enormous,” fire service commander Sidi Mohamed said on public television.
Only the remains of desks and corrugated metal sheets were still visible among the debris, with charred books, pencil cases and backpacks scattered among the ashes.
The chaos in Niger appears unending, as in late March, authorities declared three days of national mourning, when a series of coordinated attacks left at least 137 people dead in several villages in the southwest of the country.
The killings have rocked Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries at the heart of the violence-hit western portion of the Sahel region, and drawn international condemnation.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, expressed outrage at the recurrence of assaults on civilians in the country and reiterated the “urgent need to strengthen the fight against terrorism in the Sahel to preserve human lives”.
Niger has suffered repeated border attacks by fighters linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS, part of the wider security crisis in the Sahel, the semi-arid strip of land that runs below the Sahara Desert.
Back in March, Abou Oumarou, a retired colonel and former regional governor, said the repeated attacks raised questions about the military’s response.
“How is it that 200 people can move around on motorcycles and no one is aware?” he was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency. “These forces need to surround these zones so that we know when there is a massive movement.”
So far, the EU has mulled whether to assist in the Sahel region, and has generally agreed that action must be undertaken. So far, however, it’s been all empty rhetoric.
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