By Faith Nyasuguta
Niger has declared two days of national mourning starting Friday after the killing of some 69 people in an ambush by alleged Islamist insurgents.
The attack took place in the country’s south-west, near the border with neighbouring Mali.
According to the government, victims included a local mayor and the head of a self-defence militia. A search is still under way for survivors.
As at the time of this publication, no group had claimed responsibility for the bloodshed, which happened on Tuesday.
It is reported that assailants fled across the border into Mali and that they took their own dead away with them.
Further, Niger’s interior ministry revealed that a delegation spearheaded by the mayor of Banibangou had been ambushed at a village about 55km away, in the western Tillaberi region. Via a statement, it blamed “unidentified armed bandits”.
For years now, the area has been overrun by militants tied to a local affiliate of the so-called Islamic State group.
Niger currently faces jihadist insurgencies on its borders with Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria and over 500 people have been killed in insurgent violence this year in the nation’s southwest.
In March, about 137 people were killed during coordinated raids on three villages by suspected jihadists.