More than 70 people were killed in an attack on villages in Niger. That said Interior Minister Alkache Alhada. At least 20 other people were injured. Alhada called the attackers jihadists. In Niger and the other countries in this region, there are a number of terrorist groups that have sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda or the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS).
The attack occurred on Saturday near the border with Mali in the villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye. The attack is said to have been in retaliation for the murder of two fighters by villagers, the interior minister said.
Young people from the two villages had tried to form a self-defense group in the contested area. It is believed that the armed men on motorcycles came from neighboring Mali. The Nigerien authorities are following them, said the interior minister.
Niger is one of the most important transit countries for African migrants who want to reach the Mediterranean. Together with Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Burkina Faso, Niger is part of the G5 Sahel group that aims to fight terrorist groups. In recent years, Europe had put pressure on the Nigerien government to curb people smuggling. Niger is also an important partner for the EU in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel region.
However, Niger’s government has little control outside of the cities, which is not only exploited by jihadist groups, but also by criminal networks. Jihadists from the Sahel zone operate in the south-west of the country, and the radical Islamic group Boko Haram in the south-east. Around 460,000 people have already fled.
The preliminary results of the presidential and parliamentary elections were announced in Niger on Saturday. Head of state Mahamadou Issoufou will, as provided for by the constitution, resign after his two terms in office. An ally of Issoufous, the former Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum, stood for the ruling party PNDS and received 39.6 percent of the vote. Just like the strongest opposition candidate Mahamane Ousmane (16.9 percent), however, he did not achieve the necessary majority of the votes. Therefore a runoff election on February 22nd will be necessary.