Unidentified gunmen on motorcycles killed eight people on Sunday at a wildlife reserve in Niger. They included six French humanitarian workers, their Nigerien driver, and their guide, according to Nigerien and French authorities. No one has claimed responsibility but French authorities are calling this a terrorist attack

The group of French humanitarian workers from the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED) and IMPACT Initiatives Inc. had traveled to the Kouré reserve about 40 miles from the capital of Niamey. The group of four men and four women had been at the reserve for less than an hour when they were attacked by men on motorcycles, shot and killed. Their vehicle was set on fire and some of the victims were burned as well.

The victims passed through a government checkpoint at 10 a.m. on Sunday. Just 40 minutes later, a bus coming from the direction the group had traveled, informed staff at the checkpoint that an attack had taken place only four miles back.

ACTED’s Development Director Frederic Roussel stated that the victims were between 25 and 50 years old. He condemned the killings and asked the media to respect the privacy of the victims, who have not yet been identified.

“It is with profound grief that we confirm the death of seven of our colleagues as well as their guide in Niger who were senselessly and cowardly murdered by armed individuals in the Kouré area, south-east of Niamey, on August 9th, 2020.”

“ACTED and IMPACT Initiatives condemn in the strongest terms the senseless and barbaric killing of our colleagues and their guide. At this tragic moment, our thoughts are with their families and loved ones at home and in Niger… We request that the media and the general public respect the dignity and the privacy of the victims.”

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“Aid workers must never be a target. Our colleagues have been working to support the people of Niger facing hardship, driven by values of humanity and solidarity,” Roussel added.

Kadri Abdou, the President of the Association of Kouré’s Giraffe Guides, who was guiding the group, was among the victims of Sunday’s attack. The Association of Kouré’s Giraffe Guides released a statement confirming that Abdou was killed. 

“Kadri, along with a group of six French tourists and their Nigerien driver, was attacked and killed by a terrorist commando in the giraffe zone,” the statement read. “We are distressed and are thinking of the victims and their families, to whom we offer our most sincere condolences — especially the family of Kadri, our friend.”

The French DGSI, France’s internal intelligence agency (the equivalent to the FBI), has been tasked with conducting an investigation. Meanwhile, French and Nigerien soldiers were combing the wildlife reserve searching for clues on the attackers’ identity.

The wildlife reserve is a popular tourist attraction among French ex-pats, diplomats, and others. Up until this incident, no security issues had been documented there. It could, therefore, be that the area’s popularity made it a terrorist target. The area is known as the Giraffe Zone, home to the only remaining population of West African giraffes.

French and other officials have warned people about traveling to certain areas of Niger due to the risk posed by terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State. These groups are known to use motorcycles in attacks.

Niger is part of the G5 Sahel along with Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad. The G5 are in the midst of Islamic jihadist violence that has killed tens of thousands since 2012. 

The investigation is continuing.