Niger has 3 days of national mourning following a deadly attack | WGN 720 radio
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NIAMEY, Niger (AP) – Niger will hold three days of national mourning after attacks on two villages killed more than 100 civilians, the government said.
The government is stepping up security in the attack zone near the border with Mali and will provide support to those living there, he said in a statement following an emergency cabinet meeting called. by President Mahamadou Issoufou on Monday evening. An investigation will also be opened, he said.
The attacks on the western villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye took place on Saturday, the same day Niger announced that its presidential elections would move to a second round to be held on February 21.
Villages in the insecure region of Tillaberi came under attack after residents killed rebel fighters, local officials said.
The government has said that in addition to supporting residents who have lost food in the fires due to the attacks, it will also plan a forum to prevent the risk of further inter-community conflicts.
The north of Tillabéri, the scene of multiple attacks, has been in a state of emergency since 2017.
The National Human Rights Commission has called for an independent investigation to locate those responsible for the “criminal and cowardly” attacks.
The attacks were allegedly carried out by a group of armed men aboard 100 motorcycles, the rights group said. There were 70 people killed in Tchiomabangou and 30 killed in Zaroumadareye, he said, adding that at least 25 people were also injured in the two villages and that they are being treated in Ouallam.
The attacks are among the deadliest in Niger and follow several others, including that of the Islamic State province of West Africa in the Diffa region a few weeks ago, in which dozens people were killed.
While no group claimed responsibility for the attack, the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara has increasingly staged assaults in this region.
However, the villages in this region have been extremely vulnerable to increasing violence for years, and it is not always provoked by jihadists.
“The Islamic State is getting stronger because of the ignorance of the fight against it,” said Hannah Rae Armstrong, senior consultant analyst on the Sahel for the International Crisis Group.
As the Islamic State began to rise in northern Tillabéri and the tri-border region, governments in the Sahel region launched counter-extremist attacks, with support from the West, she said. declared. In some cases, civilians have been killed in the strikes, increasing tensions.
Since 2017, there has been “a toxic mix of fighting fueled by counterterrorism offensives, ethnic militias, and inter and intra-community tensions that jihadist groups have been able to exploit to their advantage,” Armstrong said. Extremist groups in some areas imposed taxes and demanded protective goods.
Land disputes are common in this insecure region where the state now has little control, and killings take place on a smaller scale.
“Along the Mali-Niger border, the presence of the state is very limited at best. Previous attacks on Nigerien military posts there have shown how vulnerable the security forces stationed along the border are, sometimes making them appear more as targets than protectors, ”Armstrong said.
A year ago, extremists staged massive attacks on the Nigerien army in the Tillabéri region, killing more than 70 in December 2019 and more than 89 in January 2020. The area is also where four soldiers US special forces were killed along with five Nigerien colleagues in October. 2017.
Neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso and Mali are fighting the spread of deadly extremist violence that displaces large numbers, despite the presence of thousands of regional and international troops.
Niger is under pressure from all sides by extremist groups and faces instability from both Mali and Nigeria, exacerbated by local tensions.
Niger has been largely spared from mass atrocities by armed groups and state forces compared to Mali and Burkina Faso until 2020, according to research consultancy MENASTREAM which focuses on security and conflict in the Sahel. and in North Africa.
He said the massive attacks by ethnic armed groups are almost equal to the number of jihadist strikes against civilians.
Petesch reported from Dakar, Senegal.
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