Following “atrocities” committed by insurgents, more than 13,000 women and children have abandoned islands on the Niger River in western Niger, according to state radio on Tuesday.
The departure is notable for coming after an attack on Saturday night that left four people dead and five injured in the Dessa district, according to the Voix du Sahel.
It said that women and children from the isolated islands had sought refuge in Ayorou, a town 200 kilometres from Niamey, the nation’s capital.
Local sources, however, said that a rise in ethnic violence in the region had been provoked by insurgents.
Residents claimed that conflicts between riverfront farmers from the Djerma hamlet and nomadic herders in late April left several people dead. Normally, the two groups coexist amicably.
According to a local journalist, insurgents were to blame for the violence, inciting it by murdering villages, stealing animals, and imposing a “tax” on locals.
Ayorou’s elected official claimed that “before the clashes, armed men on motorbikes gave an ultimatum to the farmers, telling them to leave their homes.”
The region is located in Tillaberi’s western region, which is battling a jihadist insurgency that spread there from neighboring Mali in 2015. The southeast of Niger is also troubled by Nigerian militants groups.
Several western nations, especially France and the United States, which also have military facilities there, support the poor Sahel state.
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