NIAMEY, Jan 4 (Reuters) – Niger has declared three days ofnational mourning following the massacre of 100 civilians in twovillages in the western region of the country where Islamistmilitants have carried out a series of attacks. The government said an investigation had been launched tofind the perpetrators. Witnesses have said that over a hundredarmed assailants on motorbikes surrounded the villages andstarted firing indiscriminately on Saturday. The government said reinforcements had been sent to the areanear the tri-border region of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali knownas Liptako-Gourma, where local authorities have been overrun bymilitants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State. The attack highlights the fragile security in the WestAfrica Sahel region, and in Niger in particular, ahead of apresidential election runoff in the country on Feb. 21.The weekend killings were among the worst in Niger’s recenthistory. They have forced survivors and the population of fourneighbouring villages to flee, the United Nations Refugee Agencysaid in a statement on Monday, adding that at least 1,000 peoplewere on the move from the area, trying to reach the town ofOuallam around 80 km (50 miles) away. Many were making the journey on foot, the agency added.It said that Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali were at theepicentre of one of the world’s fastest-growing displacement andprotection crises, hosting 851,000 refugees already, and nearly2 million internally displaced people.
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