ANKARA

At least 20 civilians in the West African nation of Niger were killed in weekend attacks on villages near the border with Mali, local media reported late Sunday.

Urgence Tillabery, a local NGO, said in a statement that the incident occurred on Saturday after several armed men on motorcycles attacked the villages of Gadabo, Zibane-Koira Zeno, and Zibane-Tegui in the commune of Anzourou.

”At least 20 civilians are said to have been killed in three villages in the Anzourou commune,” it said.

The deadly attack came only one day after the extension of a state of emergency in the region.

The state of emergency was extended in order to give necessary legal powers to administrative authorities and security forces deployed in the area to protect the local population, according to the Niger News Agency (APN).

Since 2017, the Tillaberi region has been subject to repeated attacks blamed on terrorist groups operating in northern Mali.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but the area is largely controlled by insurgents, including members of the al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and so-called “Islamic State.”

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