Eight dead as gunmen storm French drilling camp in Niger

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NIAMEY: Seven local employees of a French drilling firm and a government official were killed in southeast Niger yesterday when suspected gunmen stormed the compound where they were sleeping. The attack shattered months of relative calm in the Diffa region near the Lake Chad basin, a strategic area where the borders of four countries converge.

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 wounded, two seriously, it said. The injured were transported to hospital in Diffa, capital of the region of the same name which flanks Nigeria and Chad. The attackers also made off with two of the company’s pickup trucks. —Agencies

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