Children reported dead in Niger air strike

Seven children have been killed in Niger in an air strike by the Nigerian army targeting “bandits”, a local governor and state media have said.

Five more were hurt in the apparently accidental strike, the governor of Niger’s Maradi region told AFP.

Governor Chaibou Aboubacar said four were killed instantly and three died on their way to hospital. State TV said the attack happened in Nachade village.

Nigerian officials said an investigation had begun.

Mr Aboubacar said the victims’ parents were attending a ceremony and “the children were probably playing” when the air strikes hit them.

He said he believed the planes were targeting “armed bandits” in areas around the border between the two countries but missed their target and hit Nachade, a village in the area of Madarounfa.

Niger and Nigeria have been conducting joint military operations against armed gangs responsible for a wave of kidnappings and killings in the region.

Since 2018, Niger has reinforced military patrols along its border with Nigeria to prevent incursions of the gangs.

The children’s deaths come just three months after 26 children aged five and six died in a fire at a school in Maradi city.

Niger has declared two days of national mourning from Friday, after at least 69 people were killed in an attack by suspected Islamist insurgents.

The attack happened in the country’s south-west, near the border with Mali.

Victims included a local mayor and the leader of a self-defence militia, the government said. A search is under way for survivors.

No group has claimed responsibility for the bloodshed which took place on Tuesday.

The assailants fled across the border into Mali, reportedly taking their own dead away with them.

Niger’s Interior Ministry said a delegation led by the mayor of Banibangou had been ambushed at a village about 55km (32 miles) away in the western Tillaberi region. In a statement, it blamed “unidentified armed bandits”.

The area is overrun by militants associated with a local affiliate of the so-called Islamic State group.

Niger is facing jihadist insurgencies on its borders with Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. More than 500 people have been killed in insurgent violence this year in the country’s south-west. -AFP

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