Dozens killed in attacks on Niger villages


The aftermath of an attack in August in Niger, which has suffered a number claimed by jihadist groups

Suspected Islamist militants have attacked two villages in Niger, with reports of dozens civilians killed.

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Around 49 died and 17 were injured in the village of Tchombangou, while another 30 died in Zaroumdareye – both near Niger’s western border with Mali, Reuters reports.

There have been several recent violent incidents in Africa’s Sahel region, carried out by militant groups.

France said on Saturday that two of its soldiers were killed in Mali.

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France has been leading a coalition of West African and European allies against Islamist militants in the Sahel.

But the region continues to be affected by ethnic violence, banditry, and human and drug trafficking.

A local official, quoted by AFP news agency, said many people were killed, and a local journalist spoke of up to 50 deaths.

Niger’s Tillabéri region, where the villages are situated, lies within the so-called tri-border area between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, which has been plagued by jihadi attacks in recent years.

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Travel by motorbike has been banned in the region for a year, as part of efforts to stop incursions by Islamic militants, who often launch attacks from the vehicles.

Last month, members of the group killed at least 27 people in Niger’s south-eastern Diffa region.

The latest attacks in Tillabéri come amid national elections in Niger, as President Mahamadou Issoufou steps down after two five-year terms.

Election officials announced provisional results on Saturday, showing a lead for Mohamed Bazoum – a former minister and a member of Niger’s ruling party.

A second round of votes is expected to be held on 21 February, once ballots have been validated by the country’s constitutional court.

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