100 killed, dozens wounded following simultaneous militant attacks on two Niger villages

At least 100 people died in Saturday’s simultaneous attacks on two villages by suspected Islamist militants, Niger’s prime minister has said.

Brigi Rafini said 70 people were killed in the village of Tchombangou and 30 others in Zaroumdareye – both near Niger’s border with Mali.

It was one of the deadliest days in living memory, as Niger grapples with ethnic violence and Islamic militancy.

No group has said it carried out the attacks.

According to local mayor Almou Hassane, those responsible travelled on “about 100 motorcycles,” AFP news agency reports.

They split into two groups and carried out the attacks simultaneously.

Mayor Hassane said 75 other villagers were left wounded in the aftermath, and some have been evacuated for treatment in Ouallam and the capital, Niamey.

Former minister Issoufou Issaka told AFP that jihadists launched the assaults after villagers killed two of their group members.

Prime Minister Rafini visited both of the villages on Sunday.

“This situation is simply horrible… but investigations will be conducted so that this crime does not go unpunished,” he told reporters.

In light of Saturday’s attacks, Interior Minister Alkache Alhada said soldiers had been sent to the area.

Niger’s Tillabéri region lies within the so-called tri-border area between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, which has been plagued by jihadist attacks for many years.

Travel by motorbike has been banned in the region for a year, as part of efforts to stop incursions by Islamic militants, who often launch attacks from the vehicles.

Areas of Niger are also facing repeated attacks by jihadists from Nigeria, where the government is fighting an insurgency by Boko Haram.

Last month, members of the group killed at least 27 people in Niger’s south-eastern Diffa region.

The latest attacks in Tillabéri come amid national elections in Niger, as President Mahamadou Issoufou steps down after two five-year terms.

Election officials announced provisional results on Saturday, showing a lead for Mohamed Bazoum – a former minister and a member of Niger’s ruling party.

A second round of votes is expected to be held on 21 February, once ballots have been validated by the country’s constitutional court.