Updated: November 5, 2021 1:02:29 pm
About 60 people including the mayor have been killed in an attack on the village of Banibangou in southwest Niger, two local officials told Reuters. Details of Tuesday’s raid on a remote area near the border with Mali were sparse and no group has claimed responsibility, said Zakari Karidjo, a senior official in Banibangou department (county).
He said there was a clash and that there were losses on both sides. Karidjo and Marsadou Soumaila, prefect of the neighbouring department of Ouallam, said the mayor of Banibangou was killed.
The attack occurred in an area overrun by militants associated with a local affiliate of Islamic State that has killed hundreds of civilians in attacks on rural communities this year.
A poverty-stricken, arid zone of West Africa encompassing the borderlands of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso has been racked by violence in recent years as armed groups, some linked with al Qaeda, have sought to establish control over communities and rid the region of local and international military forces.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and millions have been displaced. Not including Tuesday’s violence, Islamist groups have killed more than 530 people in attacks on civilians in the frontier regions of southwest Niger this year, over five times more than in all of 2020, according to data provided by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a consultancy which tracks political violence.
In August, militants carried out a string of attacks in the area, including one in which 37 people were killed. The militants frequently target local officials including mayors, village chiefs and religious elders in an effort to destabilise communities, leaving them vulnerable to extortion and attack.
Hundreds of such officials have been killed or abducted since the beginning of 2018.