One hundred killed in terror attacks on Niger villages during presidential poll

UAE condemns attacks ‘aimed at destabilising security and stability’ in West Africa

A Nigerien police officer stands guard at a market near the Diffa airport in South-East Niger, near the Nigerian border, on December 23, 2020. Under the constant threat of the Islamists of Boko Haram and its dissidents, Diffa, the large city in southeastern Niger on the border with Nigeria, lives under siege with frightened and economically strapped inhabitants. / AFP / Issouf SANOGO
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One hundred people were killed in terrorist attacks on two villages in western Niger, the Prime Minister Brigi Rafini said on Sunday.

The attacks on the villages of Tchoma Bangou and Zaroumadareye occurred on Saturday as first-round presidential and legislative results were announced.

They were waged by militants riding about 100 motorcycles, said Almou Hassane, the mayor of the Tondikiwindi commune that administers both villages.

“There were up to 70 dead in Tchoma Bangou and 30 in Zaroumadareye,” he told news agency AFP after returning from the scenes of the attacks.

The villages are 120 kilometres north of the capital Niamey.

“There have also been 75 wounded, some of whom have been evacuated to Niamey and to Ouallam for treatment,” Mr Hassane said.

The attackers split into two columns to carry out simultaneous attacks on the villages, which are seven kilometres apart, he said.

Locally elected officials reported the raids on Saturday.

Issoufou Issaka, a former government minister who is from the region, said the extremists carried out the double massacre after local people killed two of their members.

One senior regional official said the attack was carried out at midday, the moment the election results were announced.

Election officials said ruling party candidate and former minister Mohamed Bazoum won the first round of Niger’s presidential vote, which was held last weekend.

Mr Bazoum has promised to step up the fight against the extremists.

Departing president Mahamadou Issoufou tweeted his condolences to the people of the villages, condemning the “cowardly and barbaric attacks”.

The UAE strongly condemned the terrorist attacks, state news agency Wam said on Sunday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation “affirmed the UAE’s strong condemnation of these criminal acts and its permanent rejection of all forms of violence and terrorism aimed at destabilising security and stability, in contravention of all religious and humanitarian values and principles”.

The ministry expressed its sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wished a quick recovery to the injured, Wam reported.

The two villages are in the vast and unstable Tillaberi region, in the area, where the porous borders of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso meet. The area has suffered extremist attacks for years.

Four-thousand people across the three nations died in 2019 from violence and ethnic bloodshed, the UN said.

Seven Nigerien soldiers were killed in an ambush in Tillaberi on December 21.

Travel by motorbike has been banned in the area since last January in a bid to prevent incursions by extremists.

A landlocked state in the heart of the Sahel, Niger is also being hit by terrorists from Nigeria, the cradle of a decade-old insurgency launched by Boko Haram.

It claimed responsibility for an attack on December 12, that killed at least 34 people in the village of Toumour, in south-eastern Niger, the day before municipal and regional elections. The polls had been repeatedly delayed because of poor security.

The second round of the presidential election is on February 20.