Amid the historic Niger vote, seven poll workers from Niger's commission on election were killed after a landmine explosion on Election Day. The election marks the country's first-ever democratic transition of power after it became an independent nation.
Landmine Explodes on Election Commission Vehicle on Day of Niger Vote
According to media reports, the election workers were aboard a vehicle owned by Niger's election commission that will take them to polling places in the southwest region of the country. During their travel, their vehicle hit a landmine while passing through Dargol, a rural community.
In a statement to Reuters, Niger's election commission vice president, Harouna Mounkaila stated that the poll workers were heading to the polling stations to drop off the ballot boxes and poll members for the Niger vote.
Three other poll workers survived the explosion but were seriously wounded. Authorities stated that it is still unclear if the vehicle carrying to poll workers were targeted deliberately.
Dargol, the place where the explosion happened is located in the western region of Tillaberi. It is where Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger meet. Al Jazeera has reported that armed groups which have been related to ISIS and al-Qaeda have a strong foothold in the area.
Armed groups are also known to launch frequent attacks in the area. In January, at least 100 people were killed by suspected militants in two towns in the western region of Niger.
As concern grew over the attacks, security for the Niger vote has been increased by the country's officials.
The runoff between former one-time President Mahamane Ousmane and the governing party's candidate Mohamed Bazoum is considered historical. Thus, thousands of soldiers were deployed to secure the nationwide Niger vote, NPR reported.
Governing party candidate and former interior and foreign affairs minister, Bazoum has been highly favored to win the polls. Back in December's first round, Ousmane, the first-ever president who was elected democratically in 1993 received only 17% of the votes, while Bazoum secured almost 40%.
This year's Niger vote would mark the first-ever peaceful transition of power in the country after outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou voluntarily stepped down following his two five-year terms. Since 1960, when Niger achieved independence from France, it has already seen four coups.
In a statement, Issoufou expressed his pride in being the first-ever democratically elected president to pass the presidency to another democratically elected president. Issoufou was seen casting his vote in Niamey, Niger's capital.
Meanwhile, Bazoum whom Issoufou endorses has pledged to continue the policies put in by the former president to combat Islamist extremism if he wins the Niger vote. Bazoum also earned the endorsements of two other candidates after the initial round of voting in December.
On the other hand, Ousmane, who was previously ousted by a military coup in 1996, also vowed to address the country's security concerns. In addition, he also promised to bring forth changes in the governance of Niger.
Until this day, Ousmane has refused to accept that Bazoum is leading the election. Reports say that he claims that Bazoum's huge advantage in the first round was a result of fraud. However, he hasn't provided any evidence to support such claims.