Interior Minister Alkache Alhada said the attack took place in the villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye, near the border with Mali.
Gunmen killed dozens of civilians and injured several others in attacks on two villages in western Niger, near the border with Mali, according to a senior official.
Interior Minister Alkache Alhada told the DPA news agency that Saturday’s attacks took place in the villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye in the Mangaize region.
At least 56 civilians were killed and 20 others injured, he said, without specifying the exact toll in each village.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the assaults.
A local journalist told AFP news agency that 50 people were killed in Tchombangou, while Reuters, citing security sources, said at least 49 were killed and 17 wounded in the same village.
Another 30 were killed in Zaroumdareye, another security source told Reuters.
Ahmed Idris of Al Jazeera, who reports from Niamey, the capital of Niger, said: “The belief here is that the attackers came across the border from Mali.
“It is one of the most porous areas in Niger. The border with Burkina Faso is also porous and has seen attacks from armed groups loyal to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIL, IS). And on the border with Nigeria, we have seen increased activity with Boko Haram attacks targeting not only civilians, but military personnel as well.
The violence came on the same day that Niger announced the results of the first round of a presidential election.
They showed the former Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum of the Nigerian Party for Democracy and Socialism in power with 39% of the vote.
Bazoum will now face former President Mahamane Ousmane, who won 17% of the vote, in a second round on February 20.
Ousmane was the first democratically elected president of Niger until his dismissal in a coup in 1996. Bazoum is an ally of outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou, who resigns after two terms.
The area where Saturday’s attacks took place, Mangaize, is located in Tillaberi, a large and unstable region where the borders of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso converge.
Fighters linked to al-Qaeda and the armed group of ISIL (ISIL) have increasingly launched attacks in the Sahel region of West Africa in recent years despite the presence of thousands of regional and foreign troops .
The violence hit Mali and Burkina Faso hardest, but also spread to western Niger. According to the United Nations, at least 4,000 people in the three countries died in violence linked to armed groups in 2019.
On December 21, seven Nigerien soldiers were killed in an ambush in Tillaberi, while 34 villagers were slaughtered in the southeastern Diffa region on the Nigerian border last month.