A delegation led by the mayor of Banibangou was ambushed on Tuesday about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the city, near the border with Mali. The area is invaded by militants associated with a local Islamic State affiliate that has killed hundreds of civilians in rural communities this year.
Fifteen people survived and a search operation was underway, Interior Minister Alkache Alhada said on state television. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
An arid and poverty-stricken area of West Africa that encompasses the border areas of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso has been plagued by violence in recent years as armed groups, some linked to Al Qaeda, have sought to establish control over the communities and rid the region of local and international military forces. Thousands of civilians have died and millions have been displaced.
Not including Tuesday’s violence, Islamist groups have killed more than 530 people in attacks on civilians in Niger’s southwestern border regions this year, more than five times more than in all of 2020, according to data provided by the Data Project. of Events and Location of Armed Conflicts. (ACLED), a consultancy that tracks political violence.
In August, militants carried out a series of attacks in the area, including one in which 37 people died.
Militants frequently target local officials, including mayors, village chiefs, and religious elders in an effort to destabilize communities, leaving them vulnerable to extortion and attacks. Hundreds of those officials have been killed or kidnapped since early 2018.