NIAMEY (Reuters) - Armed men in southwestern Niger killed at least 58 people when they intercepted a convoy returning from a weekly market and attacked a nearby village, the government said.
The attacks on Monday occurred in the Tillabery region, which is near the border with Mali and Burkina Faso and has seen increasingly deadly attacks by Islamist militants active across the region with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda.
Suspected militants killed at least 100 civilians on Jan. 2 in raids on two villages in Tillabery, one of the deadliest episodes in the country’s recent history.
The assailants this time intercepted four vehicles transporting passengers from a weekly market to the villages of Chinagoder and Darey Dey, the government said in a statement on Tuesday.
"These individuals then gutlessly and cruelly proceeded to carry out targeted executions of passengers," it said. "In the village of Darey Dey, they killed people and burned the granaries."
The violence is part of a wider security crisis in West Africa's Sahel region. Many of the militant attacks are concentrated where the borders of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso meet, a zone that a 5,000-strong French anti-militant task force has targeted heavily.
Niger and its neighbours have also experienced tit-for-tat killings between rival ethnic communities, stoked by the militant violence and competition for scarce resources.
(Reporting by Boureima Balima; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Leslie Adler, David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)