January 3, 2020/Niger-
Suspected Islamist militants have attacked two villages in Niger, killing around 79 people, according to Reuters news agency.
Around 49 were killed and 17 injured in the village of Tchombangou, while another 30 died in Zaroumdareye – both near Niger’s western border with Mali.
There have been several recent violent incidents in Africa’s Sahel region, carried out by militant groups.
France said on Saturday that two of its soldiers were killed in Mali.
Africa’s Sahel becomes latest al-Qaeda-IS battleground.
France has been leading a coalition of West African and European allies against Islamist militants in the West African region.
But countries like Niger and Mali continue to be affected by ethnic violence, human and drug trafficking, and banditry.
News of the latest attacks on two villages in Niger was confirmed by the government to the French RFI news outlet.
Interior Minister Alkache Alhada said soldiers had been sent to protect the area, but he say how many casualties there had been.
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.
Last month, Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram killed at least 27 people in Diffa region in the south-east.
The latest attacks also come amid national elections in Niger, as President Mahamadou Issoufou steps down after two five-year terms.