NIAMEY, Niger – Armed attackers riding motorcycles on Sunday killed 137 people in coordinated raids on villages in southwestern Niger, the government said it was one of the deadliest days in memory in a country plagued by Islamic violence be harassed.
The unknown assailants struck at noon and raided three villages and other hamlets in the Tahoua region bordering Mali, the government said on Monday, increasing the toll of a previous estimate by about 60 killed by local authorities.
“By systematically targeting civilians, these armed bandits are reaching a new level of horror and cruelty,” reads a statement announcing three days of national mourning.
It did not say who the authorities believed were behind the attacks, but the violence comes amid a wider security crisis in West Africa’s Sahel region, fueled by militants linked to Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and ethnic militias.
Unknown assailants killed at least 58 villagers in the nearby Tillabéri region last Monday.
The attacks on Sunday came on the same day that Niger’s constitutional court declared Mohamed Bazoum the winner of a run-off election for the presidency in February. Mr. Bazoum will be inaugurated on April 2.
In January, 100 civilians in Niger were killed in attacks by suspected militants, with gunmen shooting men and boys in a revenge attack on the villages of Tchoma Bangou and Zaroumadareye in Tillabéri.