Six French aid workers with a nongovernmental organisation, ACTED, their local guide and driver were killed on Sunday by gunmen riding motorcycles near Koure Giraffe Reserve in Niger, officials said. This is an area of southwestern Niger that is home to the last West African giraffes.
“There are eight dead: Two Nigeriens, including a guide and a driver, while the other six are French,” the governor of the Tillaberi region, Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella, was quoted as saying by AFP.
No one claimed responsibility for the incident immediately. French President Emmanuel Macron denounced "the deadly attack, which cowardly hit a group of humanitarian workers" in Niger and said that the attack will be investigated.
ACTED confirmed that 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 in the former French colony.
“We are managing the situation, we will give more information later,” governor Katiella said.
The Koure region has become a hideout for Sahel jihadist groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), AFP reported.
A source close to Niger’s environmental services said they found a magazine emptied of its cartridges at the scene. Niger’s army searched the area for further clues as French fighter jets flew over the area. Forensic personnel collected samples before moving the bodies from the area.
Koure is a popular weekend destination, especially with tourists, as it is a haven for a herd of a distinguished species of giraffe, that is lighter in colour. NGOs have been working in the region to help protect the giraffes.