The prime minister stated 100 individuals have been killed in assaults on the village of Niger

From Moussa Aksar

NIAMEY (Reuters) – One hundred people were killed in attacks on two villages in western Niger on Saturday, Prime Minister Brigi Rafini said after one of the deadliest days in recent times for a country ravaged by Islamist violence.

Rafini announced the death toll in remarks broadcast on national television on Sunday of a visit to the zone near the border with Mali. He didn't say who was responsible.

Security forces said Saturday that at least 70 civilians were killed in simultaneous assaults by suspected Islamic militants in the villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye.

Niger has been repeatedly attacked by militants associated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State near its borders with Mali and Burkina Faso. The violence is part of a larger security crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa that has unsettled Western allies like France, who poured troops and resources into the region.

Rival ethnic communities fueled by jihadist violence and competition for scarce resources were also killed in Niger.

The attacks on Saturday came on the same day that the electoral commission announced the results of the first round of elections to replace President Mahamadou Issoufou, who is stepping down after a decade in power.

The ruling party's candidate, Mohamed Bazoum, who graduated first, expressed condolences to the victims on Sunday.

The attacks, he said in a video he posted on social media, "remind us that terrorist groups pose a serious threat to community cohesion like no other".

Bazoum will face former President Mahamane Ousmane in a second round on February 21.

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