Niger: 544 killed in Tillaberi violence

Amnesty International (AI) has announced that these abuses had been committed from January 1 to 29 July 2021 in this…

Amnesty International (AI) has announced that these abuses had been committed from January 1 to 29 July 2021 in this southwestern region of Niger.In a report published on Monday and received by APA, the human rights NGO revealed that more and more children are being killed or targeted for recruitment by armed groups roaming Niger’s borders with Mali and Burkina Faso.

“In 2021, armed groups killed more than 60 children in the Nigerien part of the tri-border area. The EIGS (Islamic State in the Greater Sahara), present mainly on the border with Mali, appears to be responsible for most of the large-scale killings,” Amnesty International said.

In 2020, 397 civilians died as a result of insecurity. In Tillaberi, the situation “has worsened significantly since the beginning of 2021,” the NGO said. In its 64-page report, entitled “I have nothing left but myself. The growing impact of the conflict on children in the Tillaberi region,” illustrates the “devastating consequences” for children of the fighting in this Sahelian country involving the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) and the al-Qaeda affiliated ‘Groupe de Soutien à l’Islam et aux Musulmans’ (GSIM).

The NGO noted that both armed movements committed “war crimes” and other human rights abuses including killings of civilians and attacks on schools.

“In the Tillaberi region of Niger, an entire generation is growing up surrounded by death and destruction. Armed groups have repeatedly attacked schools and food supplies and are targeting children for recruitment,” said Matt Wells, Deputy Director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International.

“The Nigerien state and its international partners must take urgent steps to monitor and prevent abuses and to protect the human rights of all those affected by this deadly conflict, especially children,” he said.

As part of its investigation, the NGO said it spoke with 119 people, including 22 children, three young adults aged 18 to 20, and 36 relatives or others affected by the conflict.

As a result, “Nigerien authorities are not protecting civilians. Witnesses said that despite their emergency calls, Niger’s Defense and Security Forces (FDS) often arrived long after the killings and looting had stopped,” Amnesty reported, calling the situation in Niger “a non-international armed conflict,” given the intensity of the violence and the degree of organization of the EIGS and GSIM.

Amnesty International also said that many children who witnessed deadly attacks in their villages are suffering from trauma. In some areas, women and girls are no longer allowed to carry out activities outside the home and are at risk of abduction or forced marriage to fighters, the human rights NGO added.

In 2012, the conflict that broke out in Mali later spread to two neighboring countries: Burkina and Niger. Armed groups vie for control of border areas and frequently clash with the Nigerien army as well as forces from other countries, including Chad, Mali, Burkina and France.

It is estimated that a total of 13.2 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2021 and that 1.9 million people will be displaced.

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