Niger army kills 14 civilians mistaken for Boko Haram fighters

A screengrab taken on July 13, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. The militant group is based in Nigeria but has carried out cross-border attacks. FILE PHOTO | BOKO HARAM | AFP 

Niger's army has killed 14 civilians who were mistaken for militants of the Islamist group Boko Haram in the remote southeast, officials say.

The victims, all unarmed farmers, were in a restricted zone around the village of Abadam, next to the Nigerian border.

Two were from Niger, and the rest were from Nigeria. Details of how the operation unfolded and why the civilians were there were not clear.

Boko Haram attacks

Boko Haram is based in Nigeria but has carried out cross-border attacks.

Thousands of people have been displaced from the south-eastern Diffa region and civilians have been banned from many areas.

Many, however, have been returning to tend their crops, correspondents say.

There were conflicting reports about the army's operation. The AFP news agency said an air strike had killed the group after they returned to check on their crops. But Reuters said soldiers were patrolling the area when they opened fire.

Village prohibited

Yahaya Godi, Diffa's secretary general, said: "Abadam is a village located in the red zone and has been prohibited for a very long time... Any individual seen in the area is considered Boko Haram."

The Diffa region has seen a series of attacks by Boko Haram fighters in recent years. Just three days ago, suspected militants killed nine people and kidnapped dozens more there, including children.

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