TERORRISM

Niger attack: French aid workers among eight killed by gunmen

Car
Image captionThis burned out vehicle was found near the scene

Gunmen have attacked a group of aid workers in Niger, killing six French citizens, their local guide and driver, officials say.

The gunmen arrived on motorcycles and opened fire, the governor of Tillabéri region, Tidjani Ibrahim, told the French news agency AFP.

They were in the Koure region, which attracts tourists who want to see the last herds of giraffe in West Africa.

The French presidency confirmed the deaths of the French citizens.

The French nationals worked for an international aid group, Niger’s defence minister Issoufou Katambé told Reuters news agency. Earlier, officials had described them as tourists.

ACTED, a French humanitarian NGO, confirmed its staff members were involved in the incident in Niger.

President Emmanuel Macron spoke on the phone with his Niger counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou on Sunday, a statement said, without giving further details.

In photos seen by the BBC, the victims’ bodies were found lying on a dirt road by the side of a 4×4 vehicle.

Niger giraffes
Image captionDespite the dangers, tourists head to Koure to see the only giraffes left in West Africa

The vehicle appeared to have been burned out.

The attack happened at around 11:30 local time (10:30 GMT), east of Koure, about hour’s drive from the capital Niamey, AFP reported.

It is not yet clear who was behind the attack, but jihadist groups have become increasingly active in Niger.

The French government advises against travel to large parts of Niger, a former French colony.

The threat of terrorism, in particular outside the capital Niamey and near the borders, is high, the French government says.

Militant groups, including Boko Haram, operate in the area and violence by groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group has been on the rise in the Sahel region.

France has been leading a coalition of West African and European allies against Islamist militants in the region since June.

Despite this, tourists still visit to see the Niger giraffes, a sub-species distinguished by its lighter colour.

They settled in the area around 20 years ago and have been largely protected from poachers.

The Koure Giraffe Reserve, around 65 km (40 miles) south east of the capital Niamey, draws many tourists.

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