Seven members of Niger’s electoral commission (CENI) have been killed during the country’s presidential election runoff when their vehicle hit a mine and exploded in the troubled western region of Tillaberi.
The country regularly suffers attacks by armed groups and had increased to protect Sunday’s poll, in which the governing party candidate, Mohamed Bazoum, is facing former President Mahamane Ousmane.
A vehicle belonging to CENI and carrying election workers to their polling stations hit a mine in the rural commune of Dargol in the southwest, said Harouna Mounkaila, vice president of the commission’s local branch.
“They were leaving to drop off the ballot boxes and the members of the polling station,” Moukaila told Reuters news agency, adding that three other workers were seriously wounded.
Tillaberi is in the tri-border area of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali where armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have strengthened their foothold, launching frequent attacks and making swathes of the western portion of the Sahel ungovernable.
The region’s government confirmed the death toll following Sunday’s explosion.
“I had the news around midday [11:00 GMT] that there were seven killed when the vehicle blew up on a mine,” Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella told AFP news agency.
“They are the heads of polling stations and their secretaries” recruited by the commission, Katiella added.