London — 'Our colleagues have been working to support the people of Niger.'
Unidentified gunmen on motorbikes killed seven aid workers and a tourist guide who were visiting a wildlife reserve on Sunday in Niger's Tillabéri region, where jihadist groups have become increasingly active in recent years.
In a joint statement, the humanitarian organisations, ACTED and IMPACT Initiatives, confirmed the "senseless" and "cowardly" killing of six French nationals and one Nigerien.
"Our colleagues have been working to support the people of Niger facing hardship, driven by values of humanity and solidarity," the statement said.
Jihadists were not previously known to operate near the tourist attraction, which is 40 miles east of the capital, Niamey, and home to an endangered population of West African giraffes.
But Mathieu Pellerin, a Sahel analyst at the International Crisis Group, said "all eyes" are on the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, a regional offshoot of the so-called Islamic State group that has been under increasing pressure from military forces in the region over recent months.
Ten humanitarian workers from the local NGO APIS were also abducted in June while distributing food in a different part of Tillabéri, where tens of thousands of people have been displaced by violence.
- Philip Kleinfeld