Armed men killed at least 12 civilians in overnight raids on villages in northern Togo, where Islamist militants have staged several attacks, two local activists and a medical source said Friday.
Spared until recently by the jihadi violence that has ravaged its northern neighbors 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 in the past year by militants believed to belong to an al-Qaida affiliate.
The overnight raids were the deadliest to hit Togo to date, topping an ambush in May that killed eight soldiers. The al-Qaida-linked Jamaa Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), which is based in Mali, claimed responsibility for that attack.
A local rights activist, who asked to not be named for security reasons, said suspected jihadis killed 10 civilians in the village of Sougtangou and 10 in Blamonga, both of which are near the border with Burkina Faso.
Another local activist said suspected jihadis 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 under way, 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 Thursday that it had killed a group of civilians, all teenagers, last Saturday night in an airstrike after mistaking them for jihadis.