Gunmen on motorcycles, suspected to be jihadists, raided villages in the region of Tahoua in western Niger last March 21, killing at least 137 people, the government announced.
“Armed men arrived on motorbikes and shot at everything which moved. They attacked Intazayene, Bakoarate and Wistane and surrounding areas” near the border with Mali last March, a local official said.
Government Spokesperson Zakaria Abdourahamane said on national television on March 22 that the attacks left 137 people dead, a huge increase from the initial death count of at least 40.
“In treating civilian populations systematically as targets now, these armed bandits have gone a step further into horror and brutality,” Abdourahamane said, reading a statement.
“The government condemns these brutal acts perpetrated by individuals who know neither faith nor the law,” Abdourahamane further said, adding that the government pledged to strengthen security in the region and to bring “the perpetrators of these cowardly and criminal acts” to justice.
Abdourahamane also declared three days of national mourning, starting on March 23.
The killings come amid an escalation of deadly attacks following the election of President Mohamed Bazoum.
“After the Banibangou massacre, terrorists raged yesterday in the same barbaric fashion against the peaceful civilian populations of Intazayene and Bakorat in the Tilia department, causing several deaths. I offer my heartfelt condolences to the parents of the victims,” Bazoum stated on Twitter.
Last March 15, gunmen killed at least 66 people who were returning from the weekly market of Banibangou in the Tillaberi region. The attackers also raided the village of Darey-Daye near the border with Mali and Burkina Faso and set grain silos and vehicles on fire.
Last Jan. 2, attackers killed at least 100 civilians after raiding two villages in the Mangaize district of Tillaberi.
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