NIGER

Bodies of 92 migrants found near Niger's border with Algeria

Group, including 48 children, were trying to reach Algeria when their vehicles broke down

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 4:27am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 4:27am
AFP

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The bodies of 92 migrants who died of thirst attempting to cross the Sahara desert have been found in Niger.

The group of mainly women and children were stranded after their vehicles broke down, leaving them to walk in the scorching sun to reach a well.

Rescuers found the decomposed bodies, some eaten by jackals, strewn across the desert over a large distance, to within 20 kilometres of the border with Algeria, their planned destination.

Rescue workers who found the bodies, which include 32 women and 48 children, have said the group may have included a party from an Islamic madrasa school, given the large number of children and an elderly man who appeared to have been an Islamic teacher among the victims .

Almoustapha Alhacen, from local aid organisation Aghir in'Man, confirmed the death toll and gave a graphic account of discovering the bodies.

"The corpses were decomposed; it was horrible," he said. "We found them in different locations in a 20-kilometre radius and in small groups, often under trees, or under the sun. Sometimes a mother and children, but some lone children too," Alhacen said.

The bodies were buried according to Muslim rites, "as and when they were found", added Alhacen.

Two vehicles were carrying the migrants when they broke down, one about 83 kilometres from the city of Arlit, northern Niger where they had set off from, and another at 158 kilometres, a security source said.

"The first vehicle broke down. The second returned to Arlit to get a spare part after getting all the migrants it was carrying to alight, but it too broke down," said the source.

"We think that the migrants were in the desert for seven days and on the fifth day, they began to leave the broken-down vehicle in search of a well," the source said.

However, 21 people had survived, the source said, including a man who walked to Arlit and a woman who was saved by a driver who came across her in the desert and took her to the same city.

Nineteen others reached the Algerian city of Tamanrasset, but were sent back to Niger, the source added.

The route across Niger's desert is a well-known traffickers' route for taking people to North Africa, where some try to board boats to reach Europe, with others ending up in Algeria seeking work.

"This is human trafficking, I'm afraid," Arlit mayor Rhissa Feltou said.

Associated Press, The Guardian