‘Islamists Massacre 137 Villagers In Niger’

Monday, March 22, 2021

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

(Worthy News) - At least 137 people have been killed in the deadliest suspected Islamist attack to hit Niger, authorities said Monday.

Government spokesman Zakaria Abdourahamane said the victims were massacred Sunday during raids in villages near Niger's border with Mali.

"In treating civilian populations systematically as targets now, these armed bandits have gone a step further into horror and brutality," the spokesman told public television.

Announcing three days of national mourning for the victims from Tuesday, he vowed that the government would reinforce security in the region and bring "the perpetrators of these cowardly and criminal acts" to justice. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But militants opposing devoted Christians and moderate Muslims are very active in the region.

Witnesses said gunmen arriving on motorbikes attacked the villages of Intazayene, Bakorat, and Wistane on Sunday, shooting "at everything which moved.”

It brings the number of fatalities in the Mali-Niger border region to 236 in just over a week, according to estimates by French News Agency AFP.

The three villages attacked Sunday are located in the arid Tahoua region in western Niger, abutting the Tillaberi region in a border zone notorious for Islamist attacks. The Islamist insurgencies have spilled over from Mali and Nigeria.


It has added to difficulties in Niger which is ranked as the world’s most impoverished nation on the United Nations rankings for 189 countries. Hundreds of lives have been lost, nearly half a million people have fled their homes, and devastating damage has been inflicted in the former French colony.

On March 15, suspected jihadists killed 66 people in the Tillaberi region, attacking a bus carrying shoppers from the market town of Banibangou, and then raided the village of Darey-Daye, killing inhabitants and torching grain stores.

The same day, an attack claimed by the Islamic State group (IS) in the so-called "tri-border area" where the frontiers of Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali converge left 33 Malian soldiers dead.

The attacks underscored challenges faced by President Mohamed Bazoum, whose election was confirmed Sunday by the Sahel nation's constitutional court.

Bazoum has pledged to bring back stability, but it won’t be easy. Some 100 people were killed in attacks on two villages in the Mangaize district of Tillaberi. A year earlier, on January 9, 2020, the Niger army reportedly lost 89 men in an attack on a military camp in Chinegodar, one month after 71 troops died in an attack at Inates.


The attacks come at a difficult moment for minority Christians in border areas under Islamist control. Advocacy group Open Doors said that Christians in these areas “had been hindered from celebrating Christian weddings. Public worship and meetings of Christians have to be conducted with caution in such areas, due to the threat of violence from militant groups.”

Also, Christian converts, who abandoned Islam, are reportedly threatened by family members. They “try to make them stop following Jesus by threats or use of force,” Open Doors said.

They also suffer under Islamist terror groups such as Boko Haram, which claims to “purify” Islam, and their supporters, Worthy News, learned.

Attacks within the last two years included the torching of a Protestant church by a mob protesting the arrest of an Imam, Christians said.

In addition, a mission school was vandalized “by jihadists” who operate in the region, according to Open Doors investigators.