Residents of a village in southeast Niger said Tuesday that Boko Haram Islamic extremists had killed at least nine people and taken some 40 others hostage in a brazen attack over the weekend.
Adam Babakarna said the attackers arrived on camels and horses late Sunday, shooting in all directions in NGalewa, about 44 miles east of the city of Diffa. He said the Islamic extremists took mostly women and children hostage and threatened to hold them until other extremists are released from prison.
"Boko Haram elements... slit the throats of nine people... they took women, 37 women, and departed with them," Diffa Governor Laouali Mahamane Dan Dano, told Niger's state TV. He said security forces "are already in pursuit, and we hope that in the coming days these women will be found and freed."
Niger contributes to the multinational force set up to fight Boko Haram in the region.
Nigeria-based Boko Haram's eight-year insurgency has killed at least 20,000 people. The group has pledged allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In May, five Boko Haram commanders were released in exchange for the freedom of 82 schoolgirls from the northern Nigerian town of Chibok, after more than three years held in captivity by the Islamic militants.
Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014, bringing the extremist group's deadly rampage in northern Nigeria to the world's attention. A first group of 21 girls was freed in October 2016 and they have been in government care since then, despite calls by families and human rights groups for them to be released to their loved ones.
The group of 82 released in May also remains in government care.