No less than 40 people have been killed in suspected militant attacks in Niger’s western Tahoua region on Sunday, hours after the constitutional court validated the election of Mohamed Bazoum as president.
Outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou termed the incident “barbaric” as he sent condolences to the affected communities in Tillia.
“Everything is being done to ensure that these crimes do not go unpunished,” he said in a post on his official Twitter account.
The attackers are said to have targeted the villages of Intazayene, Bakorate, the well at Wirstane and camps near Akifakif, all located near the Malian border, according to news website Actu Niger.
It adds that militants linked to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) operate in the area.
Actu Niger reports that clashes broke out between Niger soldiers and the attackers in one of the targeted villages after military reinforcements were dispatched to the area.
Incoming President Mohamed Bazoum is under pressure to address rising civilian killings in the volatile western Tahoua and Tillaberi regions, and the south-eastern Diffa Region in attacks perpetrated by militants from the Islamic State, al-Qaeda’s Sahel group and Nigeria’s Boko Haram group.
The incident in Tahoua comes barely a week after nearly 60 civilians were killed in Tillaberi’s Banibangou locality near the border with Mali.
In the run-up to the second round of the presidential election on 21 February, more than 100 civilians were killed in an unclaimed attack in two villages in Tillaberi. On election day, seven polling agents were killed in an IED attack in the same region.