15 civilians killed in Boko Haram attack in SE Niger
The attack followed two months of calm in the area and took place as Muslims marked Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, the most important holiday of the Islamic calendar.
“We found a dreadful scene, around 15 people had been executed, four of whom were from Nigeria,” Hassan Ardo, an official from the Diffa governorate told the Tele Sahel television station.
The attackers had also torched 22 houses, a car and a mill, he said, and left four others wounded.
The station said the attack took place Thursday night and was carried out by around a dozen armed militants who had arrived on foot at the village on the banks of the Komadougou Yobe river on the border with Nigeria.
One of the victims was the village chief, the Afani private radio station reported.
Niger, whose primary source of foreign income is uranium, has joined a regional military alliance, alongside Chad, Niger and Nigeria, to fight Boko Haram, infamous for mass abductions, village massacres and suicide bombings by women and teenagers.
Since February this year, the southern Diffa region has suffered several deadly Boko Haram raids.
In June, 38 civilians were killed — including 10 children — in a Boko Haram attack targeting two villages close to Diffa.
In July, the Islamists raided Diffa prison in a likely bid to free detained members, killing a guard. The same month Boko Haram militants killed 16 civilians in an attack on a southeastern Niger village.
Diffa lies on the border with northeast Nigeria, where the Islamists have waged a bloody uprising since 2009, leaving at least 15,000 dead and more than two million others homeless.
Thousands of Nigerian refugees have fled to southeast Niger to escape Boko Haram with one of the largest refugee camps about 10 kilometres (six miles) from Diffa.
The enrolment of youths from Niger in Boko Haram shows radical Islam has gained ground in the country and in July authorities in Diffa banned the full Islamic veil following suicide attacks in the region by women wearing the religious garment.
While Niger gets ready for general elections in 2016, its security forces must also contend with the threat of jihadist movements coming across the border from Mali and Libya.
“Niger is caught in a vice between the terrorist attacks of Boko Haram in the south, the instability in Libya in the north and the precarious situation on the west on the border with Mali,” special envoy to west Africa Mohamed Ibn Chambas said earlier this month.