Dozens killed in fresh wave of attacks in Niger, near Mali border
NIGER - Dozens of people have been killed in attacks on a bus and nearby villages in Niger near its border with Mali, a security source and local residents said on Tuesday.
No group claimed responsibility, but Niger is struggling with two jihadist campaigns -- in the west near Mali and Burkina Faso, and a decade-old insurgency in the southeast on the border with Nigeria.
The raids on Monday in the Banibangou area in the Tillaberi region began with an attack on a bus travelling to Chinedogar, a local resident told AFP by phone.
"Around 20 people were killed," the source said.
Another resident said those killed had been shopping at Banibangou, a major market town just a few kilometres (miles) from the Malian border.
"Armed bandits" then attacked villages at around 6 pm, killing about 30 people, a security source said.
The attacks were not immediately confirmed by the authorities.
Tillaberi is located in the so-called tri-border area -- a flashpoint zone where the frontiers of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali converge.
Niger is part of a France-backed alliance of countries in the Sahel region battling militants, including some in a group aligned with the so-called Islamic State known as ISWAP -- an offshoot of Boko Haram.
Hundreds of lives have been lost, nearly half a million people have fled their homes, and devastating damage has been inflicted.
On January 2, 100 people were killed in attacks on two villages in the Mangaize district of Tillaberi.
The massacre, one of the worst in Niger's history, occurred between two rounds of the presidential elections.
In December 2019, 71 Nigerien troops died in an attack at Inates, and the following month 89 were killed in an assault on their base at Chinedogar.
Along with central Mali, the lawless "triborder" area sees the most frequent and deadliest jihadist attacks anywhere in the Sahel region.
French forces working with local troops have stepped up operations in the region since early 2020, following the string of attacks on military camps that killed hundreds of soldiers.