At least 70 killed in suspected militant attacks in Niger-security sources

At least 70 killed in suspected militant attacks in Niger-security sources”

Alleged extremists in Niger attacked Two villages, killing at least 79 people, Reuters news agency reported.

Interior Minister Alkache Alhada said the attack took place on Saturday in the villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye, near the border with Mali.

One of the countries in the embattled Sahel in West Africa, Niger has experienced increasing attacks as fundamentalist groups battle for control of the region.

France said on Saturday that two of its soldiers were killed in Mali.

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The country's Tillaberi region, where the villages are situated, has been under a state of emergency since 2017, and attacks by jihadist groups are common throughout Niger.

In light of Saturday's attacks, Interior Minister Alkache Alhada said soldiers had been sent to the area, according to French outlet Friday. The UN said more than 4,000 people were killed in violence across Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger previous year.

Travel by motorbike has been banned in Tillaberi since January in a bid to prevent incursions by highly mobile jihadists riding on two wheels.

The attack came on the same day election officials announced results for the first round of Niger's presidential vote that put ruling party candidate and former government minister Mohamed Bazoum in the clear lead, with a runoff set for next month. Bazoum is an ally of outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou, who is stepping down after two terms. He will now face former president Mahamane Ousmane in a vote scheduled for February 21.

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