NIAMEY, NIGER – About 100 people were killed in Niger, amid the presidential election, in an attack on two villages in the west, one of the worst massacres of civilians in this country and in the Sahel regularly targeted by jihadi groups.
“We have just returned from the scene of the attacks” carried out Saturday. “In Tchoma Bangou there were up to 70 dead and in Zaroumadareye 30 dead,” Almou Hassane, the mayor of Tondikiwindi, the town that administers the two villages, in the Ouallam department, told AFP Sunday.
“There were also 25 wounded, some of whom were evacuated to Niamey and Ouallam for treatment,” he added.
The attack, which has not been claimed, was carried out Saturday by terrorists on motorcycles.
To attack the two villages (7 kilometers apart), the attackers split into two columns. While one attacked Zaroumadareye, the other attacked Tchoma Bangou, the mayor said.
The two villages are about 120 kilometers north of the capital, Niamey, in the Tillabéri region, bordering Mali and Burkina Faso. This region known as “the three borders” has been regularly targeted for years by jihadi groups.
A delegation with Prime Minister Brigi Rafini visited the site, while outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou will lead an exceptional National Security Council on Monday morning.
Issoufou tweeted Sunday his “deepest condolences to the populations of Tchoma Bangou and Zaroumadareye, following the cowardly and barbaric attack on their villages.”
According to a senior official in the Tillabéri region, the attack occurred around noon local time (11:00 GMT). At the same time, the results of the first round of the presidential election on December 27 were announced. The candidate of the ruling party, Mohamed Bazoum, former minister of the interior, garnered 39.33% of the vote. He promised to strengthen the fight against jihadi groups.
Series of attacks
Seven soldiers were killed December 21 in the west, where the Islamic State in the Great Sahara (EIGS) regularly operates. Thirty-four people were killed December 12 in the village of Toumour in the southeast, an attack claimed by Boko Haram.
Niger organized a series of elections in December, municipal and regional ones December 13, then presidential and legislative combined on December 27. The second round of the presidential election is to take place February 20.
The region of Tillabéri has been placed under a state of emergency since 2017. To fight against the jihadis, the authorities in January 2020 banned motorbike traffic day and night and the closure of certain markets.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Niger has been fighting for years against Sahelian jihadi groups in its western part and Boko Haram in its southeast without much success despite regional cooperation and Western military aid.
Jihadi attacks in the west and south-east have claimed hundreds of lives since 2010, and caused about 500,000 refugees and displaced people to flee their homes (including 160,000 in the west), according to the United Nations.