Togo villagers flee to urban centres after militant attacks

Civilians in a part of northern Togo attacked by suspected Islamist militants last week have been fleeing their homes en masse to seek refuge in nearby cities, a local mayor said.

More than 25 people were killed in the attacks on four villages in the Kpendjal district, near the border with Burkina Faso, two local activists told Reuters.

The government said a number of people were killed but did not say how many. 

“People are leaving their villages en masse,” Arzoume Sambiani, the mayor of a part of Kpendjal, said in a statement on Monday.

He urged civilians to return to their villages and resume their everyday activities while avoiding travel after dark.

Togo’s government declared a state of emergency last month across the wider Savanes region in the north.

Togo has experienced a spate of attacks this year linked to a spillover of jihadist violence that has ravaged its northern neighbours in the Sahel region over the past decade.

Militant violence previously confined to Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger has been spreading into coastal West African countries, including Benin and Ivory Coast, despite the presence of foreign troops across the region.

Armed men killed at least 12 civilians in overnight raids on villages in northern Togo, where Islamist militants have staged several attacks, two local activists and a medical source said on Friday.

Spared until recently by the jihadist violence that has ravaged its northern neighbours for the better part of the past decade, Togo has over the past two months experienced a spate of attacks.

They were part of a broader spillover of militant violence into coastal West African countries from the landlocked Sahel region. Benin and Ivory Coast have also been targeted over the past year by militants believed to belong to an al Qaeda affiliate.

The overnight raids were the deadliest to hit Togo to date, topping an ambush in May that killed eight soldiers. The al Qaeda-linked Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), based in Mali, claimed responsibility for that attack. -Reuters

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