Niger’s Prime Minister Brigi Rafini confirms the Saturday attacks in two villages in western Niger left one hundred people dead. The latest raids are among the lethal attacks the country has witnessed in the recent past. On Sunday, while visiting the zone that borders Mali, the minister announced the number of fatalities in a national television statement. However, Mr. Rafini did not mention the people behind the attack. As of Saturday, security sources reported that at least 70 civilians died in the simultaneous raids in Zaroumadareye and Tchoma Bangou villages. Nonetheless, Islamist militants remain top suspects in connection to the attacks.
The Niger Attacks
The attacks were carried out in the Tillabéri region, a tri-border zone between Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. The region has had a good share of attacks from the jihadist group in the current years. Almou Hassane, the Tondikwindi commune mayor, confirms the presence of the jihadists. Almou told AFP that the terrorists rode into the villages on about a hundred motorcycles.
He further added that of the 100 killed, 70 were from Tchoma Bangou and the remaining 30 from Zaroumadareye village. As a result, there has been a ban on motorbikes usage due to the region’s increasing attacks. The Islamic militants have recently been using motorbikes to carry out most of their attacks.
27 people lost their lives, in the Diffa region, southeastern Niger, under the militants. The extremist group terrorizing Nigeriens associates with al Qaeda and the Islamic States near Niger’s borders with Burkina Faso and Mali. Apart from the external attacks, Niger has had its share of internal ethnic violence. Rival ethnic communities have also been making what seems like ‘tit-for-tat’ killings. The ethnic rivalry only adds to the already devastating jihadist attacks.
Africa’s Sahel Region
The Sahel region has experienced constant attacks launched by militant groups. The situation has attracted international concern, with France’s likes sending in their troops to salvage the situation. On Saturday, France lost two of its soldiers in Mali. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for.
Importantly, France has been at the forefront in a coalition of West African countries and European allies that has waged war against the Islamic extremists in the region. Despite the international interventions, the Sahel region is still insecure and characterized by; banditry, ethnic violence, and drug and human trafficking.
The recent attacks were coincidentally carried out on the same day Niger’s electoral commission announced the first-round election results. Many had anticipated the election period to be marred with violence and attacks by militants. On the contrary, an unfortunate turn of events saw the militants carry out the feared attacks just when everyone thought all was well.
The contest to replace President Mahamadou Issoufou, is set to go for another round next month. Mahamadou has been in office for the last 10 years. Mohamed Bazoum, the ruling party candidate and winner in the first round, will face off against ex-president Mahamane Ousmane on 21 February.
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