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HRW denounces killing of suspected Boko Haram fighters in Niger

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Human Rights Watch on Friday described as a “war crime” the summary execution of two alleged Boko Haram fighters in southeastern Niger last month.

The human rights organisation investigated images circulating on social media of two men being run over by army tanks, and said the Nigerien government had confirmed the incident near the border with Nigeria.

“The graphic video shows Niger soldiers in armoured vehicles shooting and driving over apparently unarmed and wounded men,” said Jonathan Pedneault, a crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch, calling for “a credible and impartial investigation”.

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On May 13, Niger’s defence ministry claimed to have killed “25 terrorists” in the Diffa region, as well as “about 50 enemies” in the Lake Chad area of Nigeria, in two operations by a regional coalition fighting against the jihadist insurgency there.

On May 3, a jihadist attack in Diffa claimed the lives of two soldiers, according to the official death toll.

For several months, the Nigerien army has suffered heavy losses in jihadist attacks, which intensified in the region in May.

Despite the presence of thousands of French and United Nations troops in the region, countries in Africa’s sprawling Sahel region have struggled to quell the jihadist insurgency.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have died in the conflict to date, and many more have had to flee their homes.

The United Nations and human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have recently accused the armies of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso of committing war crimes in their response operations, particularly against civilians.

Amnesty this week accused the armies of unlawfully killing or forcibly disappearing some 200 people this year.

The Diffa region is home to 300,000 Nigerian refugees and displaced persons fleeing from jihadist abuses since 2015, according to the United Nations.

In the west, on its borders with Mali and Burkina Faso, Niger also faces frequent attacks from Sahelian jihadist groups including the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

Niger is home to nearly 60,000 Malian refugees who fled their country’s north after it fell under the control of Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups in 2012, according to the UN.

Jihadist violence, often intertwined with inter-communal violence, resulted in 4,000 deaths in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in 2019, the UN has said.

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