French forces kill 2 protestors in Niger after crossing into West African nation
At least two people have been killed and 18 others wounded in Niger after French forces fired shots to disperse angry protesters blocking a French military convoy in the West African nation.
The armored vehicles and logistics trucks had crossed the border on Friday after being blocked in Burkina Faso for a week by demonstrations there against French forces’ failure to stop mounting violence by Takfiri militants.
Anger has been rising in Niger, Burkina Faso and other countries in West Africa's Sahel region against former colonial ruler France.
Last weekend, hundreds of people in the Burkinabe city of Kaya blocked the French convoy, which is on its way from Ivory Coast to Mali.
It was able to leave Burkina Faso on Friday but ran into new protests on Saturday morning less than 30 km across the border in the western Niger town of Tera, where it was confronted by protesters.
Video shared by a local official showed the protesters chanting “Down with France,” as black smoke rose from a burning barricade.
“In its attempt to extricate itself, it (the French forces) used force. Sadly, we deplore the death of two people and 18 injuries, 11 of them serious,” Niger’s interior ministry said in a statement.
French military spokesperson Pascal Ianni admitted that soldiers had “fired warning shots” and tear gas at protesters, but dismissed as “false information” reports on social media that French forces had killed civilians in Tera.
Anti-French sentiment is rampant in West Africa. On the streets of Bamako, Mali’s capital, many say that France is actually trying to keep the country weak so the former colonial power can exploit secret gold and oil reserves in the Sahara.
Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga said last month that he has evidence that France has been training terrorist groups operating in the nation.
Maiga said French troops had created an enclave in Kidal, a town in the desert region of northern Mali, and handed it over to a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda.
Observers accuse France of pursuing neo-colonialism in Africa, falsely claiming to fight terrorism as a pretext to maintain its influence in the region.