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Niger: 8 killed in attack on French water well drilling camp in Diffa region

Eight people were killed in an attack on French drilling company Foraco’s water well drilling camp in southeastern Niger, the company said in a release.

“Last night at 2 a.m. local time, a group of terrorists attacked the small building where a Foraco team was sleeping and killed 7 of them, plus one civil servant,” the Thursday, November 22 release said, adding that five other employees were wounded, two seriously.

The company is working with authorities to evacuate the injured personnel.

“The building had been chosen in agreement with the commander of the military escort which was insuring Foraco personnel security,” the release said.

The camp was in Toumour in the remote Diffa region near the borders with Nigeria and Chad.

The mineral drilling services company is currently drilling two deep water wells for the Niger Ministry of Water for a refugee camp in the region.

A security source blamed Boko Haram, which is active in the Diffa region, for the attack, Reuters reported.

The company did not identify the attackers, but Toumour was the site of a fierce firefight in September 2016 between the military and Boko Haram which left 38 of the insurgents dead.

“We know that Boko Haram is active in the region but for now we’ve had no claim of responsibility, neither official or unofficial,” Thierry Merle, Foraco’s vice president in charge of Europe and the Middle East, told AFP.

“We’ve been operating in Niger for 20 years, and at this site since a month ago,” Merle said.

“We hadn’t received any threat in particular,” he added, and the company had not previously suffered similar attacks.

But a local official in Diffa blamed the attack on Boko Haram militants and one local resident said the gunmen had “looted many shops” and carried off foodstuffs “in a Foraco vehicle,” AFP reported.

Boko Haram’s  insurgency began in 2009, aiming to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria. the group has lately intensified its armed campaign, launching a number of major assaults in Nigeria’s remote northeast region, amid signs of a takeover by more radical leaders.

The jihadist group has also carried out attacks in neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016 over ideological differences, but a recent video posted by one of its leaders, Abubakar Shekau, hints at a possible reconciliation with the faction led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi known as Islamic State West Africa Province.

More than 27,000 people are thought to have been killed in the nine-year insurgency that has triggered a humanitarian crisis and left 1.8 million people without homes.

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With reporting from AFP. This post was updated on November 22.

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