DAKAR (Senegal) :
The attacks took place on the same day that Niger announced that Presidential elections would go to a second round on February 21
MORE than 100 civilians were killed in Niger over the weekend by extremists who attacked two villages, as insurgent violence mounts in the West African nation. 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. Nigers Prime Minister Brigi Rafini visited the two villages on Sunday.
“We came to provide moral support and present the condolences of the president of the republic, the government and the entire Niger nation,” he said. The villages in the insecure Tillaberi region were attacked Saturday after residents killed two rebel fighters, local officials said. Niger will hold three days of national mourning over the attack, the Government said. The Government is strengthening security in the area of the attacks near the border with Mali and will provide support to those living there, it said in a statement after an emergency Cabinet meeting called by President Mahamadou Issoufou late on Monday.
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 and 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. Niger is pressed on all sides by extremist groups and must deal with spillover instability from both Mali and Nigeria. The cross-border conflict has become more deadly as it mixes with local Niger dynamics.