In a possible sign that the world is growing safer for jihadists again, motorcycle-riding gunmen have slaughtered scores of villagers in the bloodiest massacre ever to hit the African nation of Niger.
According to government spokesman Zakaria Abdourahamane, some 137 people were killed in the March 21 raids in towns in the Tahoua region, near Niger’s border with Mali, according to a report at DailyMail.com.
Gunmen mounted on motorbikes rampaged through the villages of Intazayene, Bakorat and Wistane, shooting “at everything which moved,” said a local official.
“In treating civilian populations systematically as targets now, these armed bandits have gone a step further into horror and brutality,” Abdourahamane said in a televised statement.
He vowed that the government would step up security in the region and bring “the perpetrators of these cowardly and criminal acts” to justice. Three days of mourning for the victims was also announced. The death toll had been placed at 60 the day after the massacre, but the new number makes the attacks the deadliest ever by suspected jihadists in Niger.
It also brings the number of deaths in the Mali-Niger border region to 236 in just over a week.
The world’s poorest nation according to UN rankings for 189 countries, Niger is also struggling with Islamist violence that has spilled over from Mali and Nigeria.
Hundreds of lives have been lost, nearly half a million people are refugees and much damage has been inflicted in the former French colony.