The Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility for the death of six French nationals and their two local guides while visiting a wildlife park in Niger.
The six victims, aged between 25 and 30, were with their driver and guide inside a 4×4 vehicle when gunmen aboard motorcycles killed them in an ambush in the Koure national park on August 9, according to a report by The Guardian.
In a statement published in the militant group’s publication called al-Naba and authenticated by US monitoring group SITE, IS group said that the eight victims were killed following their capture in a blitz attack.
The group said that the killing was a major security lapse for France which has some 5,100 strong force deployed in the Sahel region of Africa to combat militant groups.
Following the attack, France and other countries immediately warned people against travelling to some parts of Niger where IS, as well as another militant group called Boko Haram, still operate.
French anti-terrorism prosecutors said that the incident was a premeditated attack on westerners. However, it was unclear whether it specifically targeted French aid workers and their non-government organisation called “ACTED.”
The national park is a popular tourist attraction in Niger, a huge country which has shared borders with seven states such as Libya, Nigeria, Algeria, Mali, and Chad.
Before the August ambush, it can be learned that four American soldiers were killed in an ambush near Niger’s border with Mali in October 2017. The incident increased US scrutiny of counter-terrorism operations there.
In June, France, a former colonial power in the region, also launched a coalition of West African and European allies to combat Islamist militants in the Sahel region, including Niger. Thousands of troops have been deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert since 2013 but militant attacks kept on rising.
PHOTO BY FLICKR