Armed men kill 14 in latest west Niger village attack

YOLA, NIGERIA - DECEMBER 06: Local hunter known as Vigilante armed with locally made gun is seen on a pick up truck in Yola city of Adamawa State in Nigeria before he moves to border region between Nigeria and Cameroon to support Nigerian army fighting with Boko Haram militants on December 06, 2014. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Armed men on motorbikes killed 14 people in a part of western Niger where Islamist militants have repeatedly massacred civilians this year, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.

The assailants killed nine people in the fields, three in a nearby village and two who were walking back to the village in the rural commune of Banibangou on Sunday afternoon, the ministry said in a statement read on national television

It said the identity of the attackers was not known.

Previous attacks in Niger’s western Tillabery region have been attributed by local officials to an affiliate of Islamic State, including raids in January that killed at least 100 civilians.

Tillabery sits on Niger’s border with Mali, the regional epicenter of Islamist violence that has spread to Niger, Burkina Faso, and now threatens coastal West African countries.

Militants in Niger had previously focused their attacks on security forces. But this year they have been drawn increasingly into local ethnic conflicts, leading to greater violence against civilians.