DAKAR, Senegal – Gunmen killed eight people on Sunday at a wildlife sanctuary in Niger, including six French humanitarian workers, their Nigerien car driver and a guide, according to the authorities.
The group reached the Kouré sanctuary in an area known as the Giraffe Area, home to the only remaining West African giraffe population. But they had been there for less than an hour when they were shot, their car caught fire and their bodies were left in the sand.
“It’s really horrible. We couldn’t even look at the bodies, ”said Djibo Hama, spokesman for the Giraffe Guides Association in Kouré, who witnessed the aftermath of the attack. “They were brutally shot with bullets, but the flamethrower also burned the car and some people. It was terrifying to see them lying on the ground with their own blood. ̵6;
Some areas of Mali have been rocked by terrorist attacks in recent years, as well as several neighboring West African countries. But the Giraffe Area was widely considered safe. The tourists were French humanitarian workers, the authorities said.
“The investigations are underway,” Abdourahamane Zakaria, a government spokesman, said in a written statement confirming the attack. A senior police officer said that he was coordinating in recovering their bodies.
French nationals, a guide and driver pass through a government checkpoint at 10 a.m. on Sunday in the direction of Dosso, a town 85 miles southeast of Niamey, the capital, according to an internal announcement. Ministry from the Niger Army seen by The New York Time. Forty minutes later, the message said, the person on a bus coming from Dosso informed the staff at the checkpoint that an attack had happened four miles back.
One of the dead was Kadri Abdou, president of the Kouré Giraffe Instructors Association, according to a statement posted on Facebook.
“Kadri, along with a group of six French tourists and their Nigerien driver, were attacked and killed by a group of terrorist commandos in the giraffe area,” it wrote. “We are deeply saddened and thinking of the victims and their families, to whom we give our most sincere condolences – especially the family of our friend Kadri.”
Pictures circulating among journalists and soldiers on WhatsApp show the gruesome scene of the attack. According to a statement by Niger’s Interior Minister, the group was in a car owned by the French humanitarian organization ACTED.
The giraffe sanctuary is a popular attraction in Niger, especially on weekends. There are now 600 giraffes there, a significant change since 1996, when it was thought that there were only 49 left.
Niger is home to 201 Air Force Base, an American drone base that was recently completed but could soon be abandoned due to a planned US withdrawal in the region.
Although Kouré is in the Tillaberi region, where four US special forces were killed in an attack in 2017, it is far from the site of the attack on the other side of the capital. It also welcomes many visitors.
“Kouré is a region that has never experienced the slightest security incident, but even in the current context, the worst we expect will be the kidnapping of Western tourists,” Hama said. must be a direct assassination ”.
Cheick Amadou Diouara contributed reports from Gao, Mali and Omar Hama Saley from Niamey, Niger.