AfricaTerrorism

25 Civilians Killed in Niger’s Lawless West

Last month, the United Nations warned that 600,000 people were facing food insecurity in the Tillaberi region.

Suspected jihadists killed 25 civilians in Niger in a lawless desert region near the border with Mali, local officials said on Wednesday.

Niger, the world’s poorest country by the benchmark of the UN’s Human Development Index, faces jihadist insurgencies both on its western flank abutting Mali and Burkina Faso and in the southeast on the border with Nigeria.

An interior ministry statement said the attack on Tuesday in the town of Bakorat in the vast Tahoua desert region bordering Mali had killed 25 people, wounded one more, and scorched two vehicles.

In another attack on Temaram in the same region, “unidentified armed individuals” also ransacked the town hall and a health center, and plundered two money transfer shops, the ministry added.

It said a security sweep was ongoing in those areas.

Two officials earlier said 10 civilians were killed in the clash in Bakorat, which one of them said pitted the gunmen against a self-defense militia in Bakorat.

The Air Info newspaper cited a survivor as saying, “The assailants arrived… aboard six 4x4s preceded by several motorbikes.”

Tuesday’s deadly attack was just the latest in the area, where self-defense militias have sprung up in recent weeks.

On November 5, 11 soldiers were killed and nine were reported missing following a jihadist attack on an army position in Dagne, in the vast Tillaberi region.

The soldiers targeted had been deployed to ensure the safety of the thousands of villagers who had returned to their communities after yet more killings just three days earlier.

That assault on the village of Adab-Dab, also in Tillaberi region, killed at least 69 people, including a local mayor.

‘Innocent People’

The insurgency in the west of the country of 25 million people began in 2015, escalating in 2017 with massacres carried out by groups affiliated to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

Human Rights Watch estimated in August that more than 420 civilians had been killed since the start of the year in western Niger.

On January 2, 100 people were killed in attacks on two villages.

The massacre, one of the worst in the history of the former French colony, occurred between two rounds of the country’s presidential election.

In March, 141 members of the Tuareg community were massacred in Tahoua.

In September, President Mohamed Bazoum, making his first visit to the region since being elected in February, said the attacks on “unarmed innocent people” were a sign the jihadists were losing ground against the army.

But on October 20, 11 members of the National Guard and a gendarme were killed in an ambush on a regional prefect’s motorcade in the Bankilare district.

In early October, the UN warned that the Tillaberi region was facing a “major food crisis”, with almost 600,000 people exposed to food insecurity.

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