International Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has received reports of a jihadist attack on Fantio and Dolbel in the Tillabéri region of south-western Niger.
Survivors of the attack – a group of women with small children and babies – fled to the Dori region of Burkina Faso, ACN was told.
According to the witnesses to the attacks, the terrorists targeted the towns on two occasions, killing the men.
The two towns were abandoned by the rest of the inhabitants.
In Fantio, the jihadists threw the statue of the Virgin Mary, liturgical books and musical instruments to the ground and burned them.
They then desecrated the Blessed Sacrament by spreading the hosts on the ground before burning the church.
This is the third parish in this part of Niger that has been abandoned following terrorist attacks by extremist groups.
Survivors of the attacks have fled to Niamey, seeking refuge in the parish of Téra, or crossing the border to the Diocese of Dori in Burkina Faso.
Islamist terrorist groups began to extend their reach into Burkina Faso and Niger in 2015.
According to ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World Report 2021, the area has become one of the hotspots for militant jihadism in Africa.
The number of internally displaced persons in Burkina Faso has grown to about one million.
ACN has been supporting the Catholic Church in Burkina Faso by helping those who have experienced Islamist violence to return to normal life.
The charity has been focussing on important projects to alleviate trauma.