KOURE, Niger: Eight people, including employees of a French aid group, were killed Sunday (Aug 9) by gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of Niger that is home to the last West African giraffes, officials said.
"There are eight dead: two Nigeriens including a guide and a driver, while the other six are French," the governor of the Tillaberi region told AFP.
The French presidency confirmed that its nationals were among the dead, without giving a figure.
The French aid group ACTED said several of its workers were among those killed during a tourist outing.
"Among the eight people killed in Niger, several were Acted employees," said the NGO's lawyer Joseph Breham.
It is believed to be the first such attack on Westerners in the area, a popular tourist attraction in the former French colony thanks to its unique population of West African or Niger giraffes.
"We are managing the situation, we will give more information later," governor Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella said, without indicating who was behind the attack.
A source close to Niger's environmental services said the assault took place at around 11:30 am (1030 GMT) six kilometres (four miles) east of the town of Koure, which is an hour's drive from the capital Niamey.
"Most of the victims were shot … We found a magazine emptied of its cartridges at the scene," the source told AFP.
"We do not know the identity of the attackers but they came on motorcycles through the bush and waited for the arrival" of the group.
The source added that the victims' vehicle belonged to ACTED.
The source also described the scene of the attack, where bodies were laid side-by-side next to a torched vehicle, which had bullet holes in its rear window.
In Paris, a spokesman for the French army said France's Barkhane force, which fights jihadists in the Sahel region, had provided support to Niger's forces.
An AFP reporter at the scene of confirmed that French fighter jets flew overhead later Sunday as Niger's army searched the vast wooded area.
Forensic police were collecting samples ahead of the bodies being moved before night fell, the reporter added.
French President Emmanuel Macron late Sunday denounced the 'cowardly" attack and said he would do everything to shed light on the incident in which eight people died.
The French leader, who spoke with his Niger counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou, added that he was determined to help counter the "terrorist groups in the Sahel region".
Neighbouring Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita meanwhile strongly condemned the "barbaric act".
He lamented that "violent extremism" was still rife in the Sahel region "despite the merciless war waged by national armies, the G5 Sahel joint forces and the Barkhane force".
"NOT CONSIDERED DANGEROUS"
Around 20 years ago, a small herd of West African giraffes, a subspecies distinguished by its lighter colour, found a safe haven from poachers and predators in the Koure area.
Today they number in their hundreds and are a key tourist attraction, enjoying the protection of local peoRead More – Source