8 Killed as Boko Haram Attacks French Drilling Camp

Seven local employees of a French drilling firm and a government official were killed Thursday when suspected Boko Haram Islamists stormed the compound where they were sleeping in southeastern Niger.

The victims, all Nigerien, were shot dead at a site in Toumour, a village near the border with Nigeria where they had been drilling two deep-water wells to improve conditions for displaced people at a local refugee camp.

Seven of them were employees of Foraco, a French firm which specialises in drilling for mining and water projects. The eighth victim was an official from Niger’s ministry of hydraulics.

“A group of terrorists attacked the building where a team of Foraco drillers and technicians were resting in the village of Toumour,” a company statement said.

“The assailants opened fire on the sleeping personnel and killed eight people.”

Another five people were reportedly wounded, two of them seriously, and being transported to hospital in Diffa, capital of the region of the same name which flanks both Nigeria and Chad.

The statement added that the attackers also made off with two of the company’s pickup trucks.

“There were about 15 employees there who under the protection of about 15 soldiers who had just set off to patrol the area at the time of the attack,” said Thierry Merle, head of Foraco’s Europe and Middle East division.

“We know that Boko Haram is active in the region but for now we’ve had no claim of responsibility, neither official nor unofficial,” he told AFP.

“We’ve been operating in Niger for 20 years, and at this site for a month,” Merle said, indicating there had been no specific threats.

“We have never faced a problem like this before.”

But a local official in Diffa blamed the attack on Boko Haram militants and one local resident said the gunmen had “looted many shops” and carried off foodstuffs “in a Foraco vehicle”.

The attack shattered months of calm in Diffa, a region that first came under attack by Boko Haram militants in February 2015 although the violence eased off this year after a bloody start.

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