Sunday's attacks by gunmen in villages in Niger's Tahoua region left 137 people dead, the government said Monday, in a massacre that has underscored the huge security challenges facing new President Mohamed Bazoum.
"In treating civilian populations systematically as targets now, these armed bandits have gone a step further into horror and brutality," government spokesman Zakaria Abdourahamane said in a statement read on public television.
Security officials say the deaths occurred when armed men on motorbikes raided three villages near the border with Mali and Burkina Faso, in the "tri-border area" — a flashpoint zone where the frontiers of Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali converge
No group has yet claimed responsibility, but officials have blamed the attacks on Daesh terrorists and their affiliates.
The tri-border area is one of the most volatile places in the Sahel region. Earlier this year, 100 people were killed in attacks on two villages in Tillaberi.
Niger is also the target of attacks by militants from Nigeria, where a decade-old militancy by the Boko Haram terrorist group has been ongoing.
Thirty four villagers were massacred in the southeastern region of Diffa, on the Nigerian border, in December 2020.
More than 30,000 people have been killed and nearly three million displaced in a decade of Boko Haram violence in West Africa, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.