At least 58 people were killed in Niger on Monday after gunmen opened fire on four vehicles that were returning from the market in the Tillabéri region, near the border with Mali.
No group has claimed the attacks.
In a statement read out on public television, the Niger government said that “groups of armed, still unidentified individuals intercepted four vehicles carrying passengers back from the weekly market of Banibangou to the villages of Chinedogar and Darey-Daye”.
“The toll from these barbarous acts [is] 58 dead, one injured, a number of grain silos and two vehicles burned, and two more vehicles seized,” it added.
The government also announced a three-day period of national mourning, starting from Wednesday.
It urged people to have “greater vigilance”, and spoke of its “determination to relentlessly pursue the fight against criminality in all its forms”.
The victims were returning home from a large livestock market in Banibangou, near Niger’s troubled border with Mali. The gunmen also destroyed nearby granaries that held valuable food stores.
The attack underscore the enormous security challenges facing Niger’s new president, Mohamed Bazoum, who won the election in late February to succeed outgoing leader Mahamadou Issoufou.
Not only are groups 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.
Monday’s attack echoed a January massacre that left 100 people dead in two villages also in the Tillaberi region that hadn’t been claimed by any extremist group or militia.
Extremists staged mass attacks on Niger’s military in the Tillaberi region, killing more than 70 in December 2019 and more than 89 in January 2020. It’s near the area where four U.S. Special Forces soldiers were killed along with five Nigerien colleagues in 2017.