TAHOUA, 3 May 2021 – Unidentified gunmen have killed 16 soldiers and injured six others in an ambush in Niger’s southwestern region of Tahoua.

The attack occurred Saturday evening not too far from the local government area where an attack last March killed 137 civilians.

Tahoua, Niger - Source Internewscast

Tahoua, Niger – Source Internewscast

No Fewer than 16 Soldiers Killed by Gunmen - Photo News 24

No Fewer than 16 Soldiers Killed by Gunmen – Photo News 24

“By systematically targeting civilians, these armed bandits are reaching a new level of horror and savagery,” officials in Niamey said in a statement after the March 2021 attack in which 137 civilians were killed.

Three refugees were among the 137 victims of the coordinated attacks last March which saw rebels on motorcycles raid three villages in southwestern Niger, shooting indiscriminately and killing civilians in what officials said was a revenge attack mean to punish the civilian population for working with government forces to end the insecurity in the region.

No group has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, but government officials in the capital, Niamey, laid the blame at the feet of unnamed Islamist militants.

Nigerien Soldiers during Exercise Flintlock in Diffa, Niger,3 March 2017 - Spc. Zayid Ballesteros, US Army Photo

Nigerien Soldiers during Exercise Flintlock in Diffa on 3 March 2017 – Zayid Ballesteros, US Army Photo

The Tahoua region has served as a hideout or base for armed groups with links to al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

Thousands of civilians and hundreds of soldiers have been killed in attacks in the Tahoua region since 2018, according to United Nations data.

Large chunks of territory in the common border areas between Niger and Mali, and Niger and Burkina Faso have fallen under the control of armed groups.

Most Rural Areas in Niger, the World's Poorest Nation, are Desperately Poor - Photo Yahoo News

Most Rural Areas in Niger, the World’s Poorest Nation, are Desperately Poor – Photo Yahoo News

The violence and insecurity have thrown millions of more Nigeriens into poverty, with more than 1.5 million of them listed as living in food insecurity in 2017 by the United Nations World Food Program.

The United Nations say nearly 20 percent of the population cannot meet their food needs because of factors such as inadequate agricultural production, security constraints, and high demographic growth.

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