Dozens of civilians were killed in Niger over the weekend by extremists who attacked two villages, as insurgent violence mounts in the West African nation.
UN on Thursday, 7 January, reported that the death toll from the attack stands at 105, adding that 10,000 people in the area had fled their homes. Local officials previously said 100 people were killed in the Saturday’s twin attack.
The attacks on the western villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye took place on the same day that Niger announced that presidential elections would go to a second-round on February 21.
According to France24, Niger’s prime minister Brigi Rafini visited both villages on Sunday, 3 January.
The villages in the insecure Tillaberi region were attacked on Saturday, 2 January, after residents killed two rebel fighters, local officials said.
The attacks are among the deadliest in Niger and come on the heels of several others, including one by the Islamic state West Africa province in the Diffa region a few weeks ago in which dozens of people were killed.
Niger, neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali are battling the spread of deadly extremist violence which is displacing large numbers of people, despite the presence of thousands of regional and international troops.
A year ago, extremists staged mass attacks on Niger’s military in the Tillaberi region, killing more than 70 in December 2019 and more than 89 in January 2020. The area is also where four US special forces soldiers were killed along with five Nigerien colleagues in October 2017.
While no group has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s killings, the Islamic state in the Greater Sahara has been mounting attacks there for some time.
Extremist groups Islamic state in the Greater Sahara and the al-Qaida-linked JNIM have been successful at strategically wiping out local traditional leaders and then inciting attacks between rival ethnic groups or communities.