Boko Haram militants shot dead six people in southern Niger, near the border with Nigeria, a local official said on Saturday, February 2.
“Six people were killed Friday night by Boko Haram at Bague Djaradi,” the official told AFP, adding the assailants were on foot.
Bague Djaradi is a village in Toumour commune in the remote Diffa region which borders Nigeria and Chad.
Boko Haram was blamed for the January 28 killing of four people in Bosso, around 20 km (12 miles) east of Toumour.
The attacks come weeks after a Nigerien ground and air offensive in the area killed nearly 300 Boko Haram militants, according to the defense ministry.
In November, seven local employees of the French drilling firm Foraco and a government official were killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen who attacked their compound in Toumour. That incident shattered months of relative calm in the Diffa region.
Although Lake Chad forms a natural barrier limiting Boko Haram’s access across the border from Nigeria, the presidents of Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon appealed for international support at a November 29 meeting in Chad’s capital N’Djamena.
In December, Niger’s defense minister said he feared Boko Haram would launch renewed attacks on its positions from January, when the Komadougou Yobe river’s waters begin to recede. The river, which helps prevent incursions, serves as a natural border between Niger and Nigeria.
Boko Haram’s bloody insurgency began in northeastern Nigeria in 2009 but has since spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military response. Some 27,000 people have been killed and two million others displaced, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis in the region.
Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016. One is led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi and largely focuses on attacking military and government targets, while the other, led by Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians.
Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, but ISIS central only gives formal backing to the Barnawi faction, which is known as Islamic State West Africa province.
Both factions of Boko Haram have intensified attacks in the region over several months, but the upsurge in ISWA attacks has been much more serious. Amid signs of a takeover by more hardline leaders, the group has launched dozens of assaults on military targets in Borno and Yobe states in Nigeria.
With reporting from AFP