French and Nigerian soldiers searched through a giraffe reserve and the surrounding area in Niger
on Monday for traces of the gunmen who killed six French aid workers, a French military source said.
French military confirmed it was providing air support for the operation, which is unfolding over a vast wooded area.
French and Nigerian soldiers jointly search for the gunmen
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France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor also opened an investigation into the incident, in which attackers
on motorcycles ambushed the group as it drove through the reserve located 65km (40 miles)
from the capital Niamey – an area considered safe by the Niger government.
The French military, which has a 5,100-member force in the Sahel, said it was providing air support for
the operation, which is unfolding over a vast wooded area.
In addition to six French citizens, their Nigerien guide and driver were also killed.
The country, one of the poorest in the world, is struggling with incursions by armed groups from both Nigeria to the south and Mali to the west.
In Paris, French anti-terror prosecutors said in a statement they would investigate charges of ”
murders with links to a terrorist enterprise” and “criminal terrorist association”.
Most of the victims were shot although one woman managed to escape but was later caught and her throat was cut, a source said.