Niger confirms 137 dead in village attacks

NIAMEY, NIGER (AP) — 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 late on 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 spokesman Abdourahmane Zakaria confirmed the latest killings took place on 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 destabilised by the 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 February 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 extremists rarely say they are behind violence when it kills civilians.