World

At least 137 people killed in villages near Niger's border with Mali

Gunmen aboard motorcycles have attacked a series of villages near Niger's troubled border with Mali, leaving at least 137 people dead in the deadliest violence to strike the African country in recent memory, the government announced Monday.

Attacks occurred Sunday, as election of Niger's new president was confirmed

Niger's government confirmed Monday that at least 137 people were killed in villages near the Niger-Mali border on Sunday, March 21. (CBC News)

Gunmen aboard motorcycles have attacked a series of villages near Niger's troubled border with Mali, leaving at least 137 people dead in the deadliest violence to strike the African country in recent memory, the government announced Monday.

The latest village massacres come amid a dangerous escalation in attacks following the election of Niger's new president, Mohamed Bazoum, several weeks ago.

Government spokesperson Abdourahmane Zakaria confirmed that the latest killings took place Sunday, the same day Niger's Constitutional Court officially declared Bazoum as the winner of February's election. He is due to take office on April 2 amid a rapidly deteriorating situation in Niger, long destabilized by the Islamic insurgency in neighbouring Mali.

In January, at least 100 people were killed in the western villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye, the same day that Niger announced the presidential election would go to a second round on Feb. 21. Another wave of attacks less than a week ago killed at least 66 others.

There have been no claims of responsibility for the recent attacks on villages in Niger, although Islamic extremists rarely say they are behind violence when it kills civilians.

Niger’s ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum waves to his supporters in Niamey, Niger, on Feb. 23. He was declared the winner of February's election on Sunday by the Constitutional Court and is due to take office on April 2. (Tagaza Djibo/Reuters)

Niger and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali are battling the spread of deadly extremist violence, including from the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda, which has killed thousands of people and displaced hundreds of thousands despite the presence of thousands of regional and international troops.

Not only are jihadis active in the Tillaberi region, but the counterterrorism offensives against those extremists have helped give rise to ethnic militias, analysts say. Intercommunal tensions have been exacerbated as a result, particularly near the border between Mali and Niger.

now