Gunmen raided the house of a U.S. aid worker in central Niger overnight, killing his two guards before driving him off across the desert towards Mali, the mayor of the town said on Saturday.

“First they came on a motorbike and killed the guards,” the mayor of Abalak, Ahmed Dilo, told Reuters by telephone. “Then a 4×4 came and took him away and drove towards the Mali border.”

Residents reported hearing gunfire near the aid worker’s house, where he had been living for years. Dilo said a Nigerien soldier was among the guards killed.

Kidnappings of foreigners in Niger are rarer than in neighbour Mali, where Islamist militants are active and often seize hostages for ransom or political capital.

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