Six French citizens among eight killed by gunmen in Niger

A handout photo obtained by AFP on August 9, 2020 shows the car where six French tourists, their local guide and the driver were killed by an unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles on August 9, 2020 in an area of southwestern Niger. (AFP)
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Updated 10 August 2020

Six French citizens among eight killed by gunmen in Niger

  • It is believed to be the first such attack on Westerners in Koure, an area of southwestern Niger

KOURE: Six French citizens and their local guide and driver were killed Sunday by gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger home to the last West African giraffes, officials said.
It is believed to be the first such attack on Westerners in the area, a popular tourist attraction in the former French colony thanks to its unique population of West African or Niger 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 told AFP.
“We are managing the situation, we will give more information later,” Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella said, without indicating who was behind the attack.
France’s presidency confirmed that French citizens had been killed in Niger, without giving the number of dead.
A source close to Niger’s environmental services said the assault took place at around 11:30 am (1030 GMT) six kilometers (four miles) east of the town of Koure, which is an hour’s drive from the capital Niamey.
“Most of the victims were shot... We found a magazine emptied of its cartridges at the scene,” the source told AFP.
“We do not know the identity of the attackers but they came on motorcycles through the bush and waited for the arrival” of the group.
The source added that the victims’ vehicle belonged to the French humanitarian organization ACTED.
The source also described the scene of the attack, where bodies were laid side-by-side next to a torched vehicle, which had bullet holes in its rear window.
In Paris, a spokesman for the French army said France’s Barkhane force, which fights extremists in the Sahel region, had provided support to Niger’s forces.
An AFP reporter at the scene of confirmed that French fighter jets flew overhead later Sunday as Niger’s army searched the vast wooded area.
Forensic police were collecting samples ahead of the bodies being moved before night fell, the reporter added.
The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said he spoke on the phone with his Niger counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou.
Neighbouring Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita meanwhile strongly condemned the “barbaric act.”
He lamented that “violent extremism” was still rife in the Sahel region “despite the merciless war waged by national armies, the G5 Sahel joint forces and the Barkhane force.”
Around 20 years ago, a small herd of West African giraffes, a subspecies distinguished by its lighter color, found a safe haven from poachers and predators in the Koure area.
Today they number in their hundreds and are a key tourist attraction, enjoying the protection of local people and conservation groups.
A Western humanitarian source based in Niamey said “we all go to Koure on weekend outings because it’s very easy to access.”
“Everyone goes there, even ambassadors, diplomats, teachers... it is not considered a dangerous zone at all. There are NGOs protecting giraffes there,” the source told AFP.
However the Tillaberi region is in a hugely unstable location, near the borders of Mali and Burkina Faso.
The region has become a hideout for Sahel extremist groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).
The use of motorcycles has been totally banned since January in an attempt to curb the movements of such extremists.
Numerous Europeans have been abducted or killed in the volatile Sahel.
Two young Frenchmen, Antoine De Leocour and Vincent Delory, were killed after being kidnapped by extremists from a restaurant in Niger’s capital Niamey in 2011.


Philadelphia curfew as anger boils over police killing of Black man

Updated 29 October 2020

Philadelphia curfew as anger boils over police killing of Black man

  • Thousands of people have taken to Philadelphia’s streets, with looting and violence breaking out, since police on Monday shot dead 27-year-old Walter Wallace
  • The US has seen a wave of protests and rioting since the police killing of George Floyd in May in Minnesota, when an officer was filmed pressing his knee to handcuffed Floyd’s neck

PHILADELPHIA: Officials in the US city of Philadelphia announced a nighttime curfew Wednesday following two nights of unrest over the latest police killing of a Black man whose family said suffered from mental health issues.
Thousands of people have taken to Philadelphia’s streets, with looting and violence breaking out, since police on Monday shot dead 27-year-old Walter Wallace, who was carrying a knife.
Wallace’s death and the subsequent demonstrations, in which riot police have used batons and shields to push back protesters throwing bricks and other debris, have reignited a political clash between Republicans and Democrats days before the election.
Philadelphia is the biggest city in the state of Pennsylvania, which is viewed as key to winning Tuesday’s presidential vote.
“It’s a terrible thing. What I am witnessing is terrible and frankly that the mayor or whoever it is that’s allowing people to riot and loot and not stop them is also just a horrible thing,” President Donald Trump told reporters.
The US has seen a wave of protests and rioting since the police killing of George Floyd in May in Minnesota, when an officer was filmed pressing his knee to handcuffed Floyd’s neck until he went limp.
Many of the protests have accused the police of racism and brutality, but Trump has focused on the unrest to bolster his claims to be the “law-and-order” candidate in his election battle against Joe Biden.
The Democratic challenger said it was “totally legitimate, totally reasonable” to protest peacefully.
“What I say is there’s no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence,” Biden told reporters after casting his ballot in his home state of Delaware.
Officials announced that the citywide curfew will last from 9:00 p.m. to 06:00 am (0100 to 1000 GMT Thursday).
Mayor Jim Kenney suggested other curfews may follow, telling reporters that decisions will be made daily on whether to implement one that night.
“I believe that as a certain percentage of people who abide by the curfew we’ll have less people on the street to deal with, which makes the job, and the safety of the officers better,” said Kenney, a Democrat.
More than 170 people have been arrested over the unrest, mostly for looting, according to police statistics.
Some 53 police officers have been injured, including one whose leg was broken when he was hit by a truck, while 17 police vehicles have been damaged.
Two officers shot Wallace around 4:00 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Monday afternoon after he refused to drop the knife as his mother tried to restrain him.
Phone video of the killing posted on social media showed Wallace push his mother away and then walk toward the police.
“Put the knife down,” one of the officers shouted in the video, which panned away as officers opened fire.
His family said he suffered from mental health problems and was on medication. Wallace’s father asked why officers did not taser him instead.
Police said they responded to a call about a domestic disturbance.
A lawyer for the family said Wallace was bipolar and the call to the emergency services was for an ambulance, not police.
Several hundred National Guard troops deployed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s office are expected to arrive in Philadelphia beginning Friday.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw has launched an investigation into the shooting. The officers involved have not been identified.