Niger civilians killed in mistaken identity incident


Soldiers in Niger killed 14 unarmed civilians after mistaking them for Boko Haram militants during a patrol in the remote south-east of the country, a senior regional official said.

Nigerien soldiers were patrolling a restricted zone Abadam near Lake Chad on Wednesday when they opened fire on what turned out to be farmers, according to Yahaya Godi, the Secretary General of Niger’s Diffa region.
“Fourteen people are dead. Abadam is located in the red zone and has been prohibited for a long time,” said Godi. “Any individual seen in the area is considered Boko Haram.”

He said two of the dead were from Niger and the rest from neighbouring Nigeria, where Boko Haram is based and from which the jihadist group has carried out cross-border attacks into Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

It was not immediately clear why civilians were in the restricted area and what made the soldiers open fire. Nigerien army officials were not reachable for comment.

One witness said the farmers had finished eating when gunfire started, forcing them to flee.

The incident occurred three days after suspected Boko Haram militants killed nine people and abducted dozens in southern Niger. That attack raised concern about Niger’s inability to stop Boko Haram crossing the desert border from bases in Nigeria.

The Diffa region has seen intense fighting over the past year between Niger’s army and Boko Haram. Thousands of people have been displaced and many areas are off-limits.