Armed men have been reported to have allegedly killed at least 12 civilians in overnight raids on villages in northern Togo, where terrorists have staged several attacks, two local activists and a medical source said on Friday.
Spared until recently by the jihadist violence that has ravaged its northern neighbours for the better part of the past decade, Togo has over the past two months experienced a spate of attacks.
They are part of a broader spillover of militant violence into coastal West African countries from the landlocked Sahel region. Benin and Ivory Coast have also been targeted over the past year by militants believed to belong to an al Qaeda affiliate.
The overnight raids were the deadliest to hit Togo to date, topping an ambush in May that killed eight soldiers. The al Qaeda-linked Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), which is based in Mali, claimed responsibility for that attack.
A local rights activist, who asked not be named for security reasons, said suspected jihadists killed 10 civilians in the village of Sougtangou and 10 in Blamonga, both of which are located near the border with Burkina Faso.
Another local activist said suspected jihadists had killed at least 12 civilians and a medical source said the death toll was at least 14. They also spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Government spokesman Akodah Ayewouadan confirmed to a local radio station that there had been an attack.
“Clearing operations are currently underway, and we fear that there are victims,” he said.
The government declared a state of emergency last month in the Savanes region, where the overnight attacks took place, and has bolstered security to try to prevent militants from spilling over from southern Burkina Faso.
The army said on Thursday it had killed a group of civilians, all teenagers, on Saturday night in an air strike after mistaking them for jihadists.
Reporting by Aaron Ross and Alice Lawson; Editing by Catherine Evans, Mark Heinrich and Alison Williams