Two villages are attacked in Niger, killing more than 100 people. The interior minister speaks of jihadists to the attackers. French soldiers die again in neighboring Mali.
Gunmen killed more than 100 people in the terror-stricken West African country of Niger. Prime Minister Birgi Rafini announced on Sunday after visiting the two affected villages near the border with Mali. So far, no group has acknowledged the attack. According to the Nigerien interior minister Alkache Alhada, at least 20 people were injured in the attack. Alhada called the attackers jihadists. There are a number of terrorist groups active in Niger and other countries in this region that have sworn allegiance to Al Qaeda or the “Islamic State” (IS).
The attack happened on Saturday in the villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye. The attack is believed to have been in retaliation for the murder of two fighters by villagers, the interior minister said. Young people from the two villages had tried to form a self-defense group in the contested area. The armed men are believed to have come from neighboring Mali on motorbikes. The Nigerien authorities are following them, said the interior minister.
Niger is one of the most important transit countries for African migrants who want to reach the EU via the Mediterranean. Together with Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Burkina Faso, Niger is part of the G5 Sahel group that wants to fight terrorist groups. The government has little control in the deserted expanses outside the cities, which is not only used by jihadist groups but also by criminal networks. In recent years, Europe had put pressure on the Nigerien government to curb people smuggling. Niger is also an important partner for the EU in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel region.
French soldiers died in Mali
In Niger, the preliminary results of the presidential and parliamentary elections were announced on the same day. Head of state Mahamadou Issoufou will, as provided for by the constitution, resign after his two terms in office. An ally of the outgoing president, former Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum, stood for the ruling party PNDS and received 39.6 percent of the vote. Like the strongest opposition candidate Mahamane Ousmane (16.9 percent), however, he did not achieve the necessary majority of votes, which is why a runoff election on February 22nd is necessary.
In another attack in neighboring Mali, two French soldiers were also killed on Saturday. A third was injured when an explosive device exploded under her vehicle, as announced by the Elysée Palace in Paris. The incident therefore occurred during a reconnaissance trip in the eastern Menaka region. On Monday, three French soldiers were killed in Mali when an improvised explosive device went off under their armored vehicle.