The incident comes as Niger organizes a second round of the presidential election between favorite Mohamed Bazoum and former President Mahamane Ousmane.
Seven members of Niger’s electoral commission (CENI) were killed in the country’s second round of presidential elections when their vehicle struck a mine and exploded in the troubled western region of Tillaberi.
The country is regularly attacked by armed groups and had multiplied to protect Sunday’s poll, in which the ruling party candidate, Mohamed Bazoum, faces former President Mahamane Ousmane.
A vehicle belonging to the CENI and transporting electoral agents to their polling stations struck a landmine in the rural commune of Dargol in the southwest, said Harouna Mounkaila, vice-president of the local section of the commission.
“They were leaving to deposit the ballot boxes and the members of the polling station,” Moukaila told Reuters news agency, adding that three other workers were seriously injured.
Tillaberi is located in the region of the three borders of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali where armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIL) have strengthened their presence, launching frequent attacks and rendering sections of the government ungovernable. the western part of the Sahel.
The region’s government has confirmed the death toll after Sunday’s explosion.
“I got the news around noon [11:00 GMT] that there were seven deaths when the vehicle exploded on a mine, ”Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella told AFP news agency.
“These are the heads of the polling stations and their secretaries” recruited by the commission, added Katiella.
Thousands of troops have been deployed across the country for the vote, which is expected to usher in a peaceful handover between elected presidents, a first since Niger’s independence from France in 1960.
Outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou’s decision to voluntarily step down after two five-year terms has been welcomed in a region where many leaders have tried to cling to power.
“I am proud to be the first democratically elected president in our history to be able to hand over the baton to another democratically elected president,” Issoufou said while voting for mayor of the capital, Niamey.
Bazoum, 61, right-hand man and anointed heir to Issoufou, is widely regarded as the favorite after securing 39.3% of the vote in the first round of voting on December 27. Ousmane, 71 – who became the first country democratically elected president in 1993, only to be overthrown in a coup three years later – had collected 16.9%.
The polling stations were to close at 7 p.m. (6 p.m. GMT).