Niamey, Niger, Dec 3 – Around 100 people were killed by “terrorists” attacking two villages in western Niger, the local mayor said Sunday, the latest in a string of civilian massacres that have rocked the jihadist-plagued Tillaberi region.
The attacks on the villages of Tchoma Bangou and Zaroumadareye on Saturday were waged by “terrorists who came riding about a hundred 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 dead in Zaroumadareye,” he told AFP, adding he had just returned from the scene of the attacks.
The two villages are 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of the capital Niamey.
“There have also been 75 wounded, some of whom have been evacuated to Niamey and to Ouallam for treatment,” Hassane said.
To carry out simultaneous attacks on the two villages, which lie seven kilometres (four miles) apart, the attackers split into two columns, the mayor added.
News first emerged of the raids on Saturday, but it was not yet clear how many casualties there were.
The two villages are in the vast and unstable Tillaberi region, which is located in the “tri-border” area, where the porous borders of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso converge. The area has for years been targeted by jihadist assaults.
Four thousand people across the three nations died in 2019 from jihadist violence and ethnic bloodshed stirred by Islamists, according to the UN.
Seven Nigerien soldiers were killed in an ambush in Tillaberi on December 21.
Travel by motorbike has been banned in Tillaberi since January in a bid to prevent incursions by highly mobile jihadists riding on two wheels.
A landlocked state located in the heart of the Sahel, Niger is also being hammered by jihadists from Nigeria, the cradle of a decade-old insurgency launched by Boko Haram.
Last month 34 villagers were massacred in the southeastern region of Diffa, on the Nigerian border, the day before municipal and regional elections that had been repeatedly delayed because of poor security.
The latest attacks came on the same day election officials announced that ruling party candidate and former minister Mohamed Bazoum won the first round of Niger’s presidential vote, which was held last weekend. A runoff vote is scheduled for February 20.