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At least 100 villagers killed in bloody weekend in Niger

By Omar Hama Saley

On Saturday, January 2, 2021, armed men attacked the villages of Tchiombangou, 22 kilometers from the commune of Mangaïzé, and Zaroumdarey, 38 kilometers from the Malian border.

At least 100 civilians were killed in the attack on the two villages in the west of the country: 70 dead in Tchiombangou and around 30 dead in Zaroumdarey. The 20 or so wounded were transported by an army unit to the National Guard health center in Ouallam, according to Marsadou Soumaïla, prefect of the department of Ouallam, who spoke to by telephone.

According to a resident of the area, the attackers came to “avenge the death” of three of their men killed by the villagers in mid-December. “The three terrorists are well known in the two villages because they are the ones who collect taxes in the villages,” he said. According to one villager who managed to escape the attack, the attackers first killed the chief of the village of Tchiombangou before attacking the men of his village in front of the women and children. He noted that several of the attackers were from the area.

Nouhou Arzika, a civil society actor in Niamey, expressed concern about the security situation in the Tillaberi region. “Niger is still mourning the massacre of civilians. The authorities must review their strategy for fighting terrorists. It is unacceptable that we continue to live in these conditions even though our country has welcomed all these foreign bases. Today, it is important for Niger to take the destiny of its security into its own hands,” he said.

Niger is home to French and American military bases and allows other European soldiers to use those bases. One of the main architects of the current security strategy, former interior minister Mohammed Bazoum, is frontrunner in the presidential election.

Prime Minister Brigi Rafini visited the area on Sunday to offer the support of the authorities to the victims of these attacks. In Niger, security is a top priority for the next president, who will be elected after the second round of the presidential election scheduled for February 21, 2021.