Dozens dead in west Niger militant attack

Dozens dead in west Niger militant attack
3 min read
04 November, 2021
A militant attack in Niger's volatile "tri-border" zone with Burkina Faso and Mali has killed dozens of members of a self-defence militia
The target of the attack was a local anti-militant defence force [Getty- file photo]

A militant attack in Niger's volatile "tri-border" zone with Burkina Faso and Mali has killed dozens of members of a self-defence militia, local sources told AFP on Thursday.

The assault took place on Tuesday at Adab-Dab, a village about 55 kilometres (32 miles) from Banibangou in the western region of Tillaberi, a source said.

A motorcycle-borne defence force was attacked by "heavily-armed members of the ISGS (Islamic State in the Greater Sahara," who were also on motorbikes, the source said.

"In all there are about 60 dead, nine missing and 15 escaped. The mayor of Banibangou is among those who were killed and his body has been recovered," an MP in the western Tillaberi area said.

A security source said the attack occurred "on Tuesday at around 9.30 am" (0830 GMT).

Another local source confirmed the death toll and said the target of the attack was a local anti-militant defence force called the Vigilance Committees, which was headed by the mayor of Banibangou district.

The assailants headed off back to Mali "taking the bodies of their fighters with them", the source said.

The defence force had recently been set up by local people following a string of attacks on farm workers in remote fields by highly mobile militants, a former mayor said.

The militia had set off for Adab-Dab on Tuesday to hunt for armed men who had been attacking villages and stealing cattle.

The world's poorest country by the benchmark of the UN's Human Development Index (HDI), Niger is facing militant insurgencies both on its western border with Mali and Burkina Faso and on its southeastern frontier with Nigeria.

The western insurgency began with incursions in 2015. The bloodshed escalated in 2017, with massacres carried out by groups affiliated to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

Human Rights Watch estimated in August that more than 420 civilians had been killed since the start of the year in western Niger. In one incident alone, 100 people were killed in attacks on villages on 2 January.

In September, President Mohamed Bazoum, making his first visit to the region since being elected in February, said the attacks on "unarmed innocent people" were a sign the militants were losing ground against the army.

But on 20 October, 11 members of the National Guard and a gendarme were killed in an ambush on a regional prefect's motorcade in the Bankilare district.

The United Nations has meanwhile warned that the Tillaberi region is facing a "major food crisis", with almost 600,000 people exposed to food insecurity.

"Insecurity and recurrent attacks by suspected elements of non-state armed groups targeting farmers and civilians will have serious repercussions this year on the already precarious food situation," the UN Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs office warned in a report sent to AFP last month.