Niger's government says gunmen have killed more than 50 people in a suspected terror attack near the border with Mali. The onslaught comes amid election uncertainty.
Suspected militants stormed two villages in western Niger late Saturday, killing at least 56 civilians and wounding 20 others, Interior Minister Alkache Alhada said.
The suspected terror attack took place in the villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye, near the border with Mali, Alhada said.
Security sources cited by Reuters news agency said as many as 70 civilians had been killed.
Niger, located in the troubled Sahel region, has seen a rise in attacks by extremist groups vying for territory. Violent attacks near the country's western border with Mali and Burkina Faso, and the southeastern border with Nigeria, killed hundreds of people last year.
Partial election results
It comes as the West African country counts the results of an election held last week.
A partial tally of ballots announced on Saturday put the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism in the lead but a runoff poll in February will be required after the country's ruling party candidate failed to secure enough votes in the first round.
Ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum secured 39.6% of the vote, while ppposition candidate Mahamane Ousmane won 16.9%. Ousmane was Niger's first democratically elected president until he was ousted in a coup in 1996. Bazoum is an ally of President Mahamadou Issoufou, who is stepping down after two terms.
shs,nm/jsi (Reuters, dpa)