Niger, French forces in search of gunmen who killed tourists

NIAMEY, NIGER (AP) — Armed forces from Niger and France have been deployed to pursue the gunmen who killed seven aid workers, mostly French citizens, and a leading guide in a Niger giraffe park considered one of the safer places in the vast West African country.

The group had been on a day of sightseeing last Sunday when they were attacked just before noon, according to one of the aid groups they worked for, Paris-based NGO ACTED. An ambulance sent by the French military stationed in Niger found the bodies later in the day in their burned-out vehicle in the giraffe reserve in Koure, the group said.

The victims were six French citizens and one Nigerien working for ACTED and Geneva-based IMPACT Initiatives. The other victim was their Nigerien guide, who was the president of the guides at the park.

Four of the French aid workers were women, two men, and all were between the ages of 25 and 50, according to ACTED.

Niger’s Interior Minister Alkache Alhada said on Monday that the area around Koure has been cordoned off by Niger’s army and French soldiers from Operation Barkhane.

“We have deployed the army and intelligence services to identify and neutralise the assassins,” he said. “We have also deployed air cover to reinforce the troops on the ground.”

French prosecutors said in a statement on Monday they opened an investigation for “murders in relation to a terrorist undertaking”. The governor of the Tillaberi region where the attack took place, said he was surprised by this “cowardly attack and assassination” against foreign tourists.