Six French citizens among eight killed by gunmen in Niger

A handout photo obtained by AFP on August 9, 2020 shows the car where six French tourists, their local guide and the driver were killed by an unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles on August 9, 2020 in an area of southwestern Niger. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 10 August 2020

Six French citizens among eight killed by gunmen in Niger

  • It is believed to be the first such attack on Westerners in Koure, an area of southwestern Niger

KOURE: Six French citizens and their local guide and driver were killed Sunday by gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger home to the last West African giraffes, officials said.
It is believed to be the first such attack on Westerners in the area, a popular tourist attraction in the former French colony thanks to its unique population of West African or Niger giraffes.
“There are eight dead: two Nigeriens including a guide and a driver, while the other six are French,” the governor of the Tillaberi region told AFP.
“We are managing the situation, we will give more information later,” Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella said, without indicating who was behind the attack.
France’s presidency confirmed that French citizens had been killed in Niger, without giving the number of dead.
A source close to Niger’s environmental services said the assault took place at around 11:30 am (1030 GMT) six kilometers (four miles) east of the town of Koure, which is an hour’s drive from the capital Niamey.
“Most of the victims were shot... We found a magazine emptied of its cartridges at the scene,” the source told AFP.
“We do not know the identity of the attackers but they came on motorcycles through the bush and waited for the arrival” of the group.
The source added that the victims’ vehicle belonged to the French humanitarian organization ACTED.
The source also described the scene of the attack, where bodies were laid side-by-side next to a torched vehicle, which had bullet holes in its rear window.
In Paris, a spokesman for the French army said France’s Barkhane force, which fights extremists in the Sahel region, had provided support to Niger’s forces.
An AFP reporter at the scene of confirmed that French fighter jets flew overhead later Sunday as Niger’s army searched the vast wooded area.
Forensic police were collecting samples ahead of the bodies being moved before night fell, the reporter added.
The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said he spoke on the phone with his Niger counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou.
Neighbouring Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita meanwhile strongly condemned the “barbaric act.”
He lamented that “violent extremism” was still rife in the Sahel region “despite the merciless war waged by national armies, the G5 Sahel joint forces and the Barkhane force.”
Around 20 years ago, a small herd of West African giraffes, a subspecies distinguished by its lighter color, found a safe haven from poachers and predators in the Koure area.
Today they number in their hundreds and are a key tourist attraction, enjoying the protection of local people and conservation groups.
A Western humanitarian source based in Niamey said “we all go to Koure on weekend outings because it’s very easy to access.”
“Everyone goes there, even ambassadors, diplomats, teachers... it is not considered a dangerous zone at all. There are NGOs protecting giraffes there,” the source told AFP.
However the Tillaberi region is in a hugely unstable location, near the borders of Mali and Burkina Faso.
The region has become a hideout for Sahel extremist groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).
The use of motorcycles has been totally banned since January in an attempt to curb the movements of such extremists.
Numerous Europeans have been abducted or killed in the volatile Sahel.
Two young Frenchmen, Antoine De Leocour and Vincent Delory, were killed after being kidnapped by extremists from a restaurant in Niger’s capital Niamey in 2011.


Law to protect soldiers would be ‘dangerous’ to UK forces’ reputation, PM warned

Updated 2 min 46 sec ago

Law to protect soldiers would be ‘dangerous’ to UK forces’ reputation, PM warned

  • “This bill would be a stain on the country’s reputation,” military and political figures said

LONDON: A bill that aims to repress claims against British troops was “dangerous and harmful” to the reputation of the UK’s armed forces and the safety of its personnel, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been warned.
Military and political figures have encouraged the British premier to reconsider the “ill-conceived” legislation, which will return to the House of Commons next week, The Times reported.
Former head of the armed forces , Field Marshal Charles Guthrie, ex-defense secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, and former attorney-general, Dominic Grieve, sent a letter to Johnson on Thursday sharing their concerns about the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, the British newspaper said.
The draft law seeks to limit false and old allegations against personnel through measures including a statutory presumption against criminal prosecution five years after an alleged crime.
Compelling new evidence must be presented, and the attorney-general’s consent secured in order for the presumption to be overruled. The bill is only applicable to overseas operations.
In the letter, Guthrie and other signatories said: “We find it disturbing that the government’s approach … creates a presumption against prosecution of torture and other grave crimes (with only rape and sexual violence excepted) after five years.
“We believe that the effective application of existing protocols removes the risk of vexatious prosecution. To create de facto impunity for such crimes would be a damaging signal for Britain to send to the world.
“This bill would be a stain on the country’s reputation. It would increase the danger to British soldiers if Britain is perceived as reluctant to act in accordance with long-established international law,” they added.
Britain’s most senior military judge had warned defense secretary, Ben Wallace, that the legislation could leave British troops more likely to face prosecution for war crimes at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, The Times revealed in June.
As the legislation sets out protections relating only to domestic crimes, it could encourage police and prosecutors to focus on pursuing war-crime charges, Judge Jeffrey Blackett said.
The Ministry of Defense has said that the legislation “strikes the right balance between victims’ rights and access to justice, as well as fairness to those who defend this country.”