Gunmen Kill 69 in South-West Niger

Gunmen attack in South-West Niger has claimed the lives of 69 people, including a mayor. The attack is part of a wave of violence against civilians in the country this year.

On Tuesday, a delegation led by the mayor of Banibangou was ambushed about 50 kilometres from his town. A local Islamic State affiliate has been overrunning rural areas in the area this year, killing hundreds of civilians.

Alkache Alhada, Niger’s Interior Minister, said on state television that 15 people survived and a search effort is underway. No group has claimed responsibility.

West Africa’s region overlooking the borderlands of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso has been plagued by violence as armed groups, some linked to al Qaeda, seek to take control over local communities and rid the region of both local and international forces. Millions of civilians have been displaced and thousands have been killed.

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According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a consultancy that tracks political violence, Islamist groups have killed more than 530 people in attacks on civilians in South-West Niger this year, more than five times as many as in all of 2020.

There were several militant attacks in the area in August, including one in which 37 people died.

Local officials, including mayors, village chiefs, and religious elders, are frequently targeted by militants to destabilize communities, making them vulnerable to extortion and attacks. The number of such officials killed or abducted has increased significantly since the beginning of the year.

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