137 Killed as Raids Hammer Villages in SW Niger

Locals say gunmen shot at everything that moved

A large force of gunmen on motorbikes tore through southwestern Niger, in the tri-border area near Burkina Faso and Mali. Locals said the gunmen fired at everything that moved, and they hit several villages in the area.

Nigerien officials reported 137 people killed in this area, while Mali reported at least 33 more killed on their side of the border in a likely related attack. Mali named ISIS, but it’s not clear they were the only ones involved.

This area hit is smack in the middle of the Sahel, where various huge Islamist groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operate with limited resistance, and tend to overrun areas with ease.

A large international military coalition has been deployed in the area to fight the Islamists, and when they clash it tends to result in huge death tolls. That said, the groups seem to be able to operate across much of the area, avoiding direct military conflicts and concentrating on civilian targets.

Both sides in this conflict have many thousands of fighters, but with the Sahel region spanning some 5,400 km across Africa, they tend to have room to operate without running into one another, which means heavily populated areas often have limited protection.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.