At least 16 people have been killed in an attack on a village in southwestern Niger where attackers have repeatedly massacred civilians this year, a local official and a security source said.
The unidentified gunmen opened fire during Friday prayers in the village of Theim in the Tillaberi region and killed 16 people, Mayor Halido Zibo told Reuters news agency on Saturday.
A security source confirmed the attack and put the death toll at 17. The attack follows the killing on Monday of 37 civilians, including 14 children, in a village in the same region.
Thiem is about 20km (12 miles) from three other villages where a series of attacks in May by fighters linked to the ISIL (ISIS) armed group forced more than 11,000 inhabitants to flee.
Armed groups in Tillaberi and Tahoua regions bordering Mali have killed more than 420 civilians and driven tens of thousands of others from their homes in 2021, New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch said in a report this month.
On Friday, MPs from the region called for increased security measures for the area, saying that fighters behind the wave of attacks in the vast Tillaberi region are able to operate freely in spite of strict government controls.
To combat rising attacks, Niger has declared a state of emergency, banned the movement of motorbikes, regulated the sale of fuel and closed markets suspected of supplying armed groups, they said.
The attacks are part of a wider conflict spanning the borderlands of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in Africa’s Sahel region where fighters linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL are seeking to take control.