A local mayor said at least 18 others were injured after the convoy to Mali ran into trouble in Tira.
A French military convoy bound for Mali on Saturday got into more trouble in a town in Niger after being delayed for more than a week due to protests in Burkina Faso, with the local mayor reporting three deaths and 18 injuries.
The convoy of supplies, which arrived in Africa in Ivory Coast last week, crossed Burkina Faso and entered Niger on Friday on its way to central Mali.
Its destination is a base in Gao, the center of France’s Operation Barkhane, which supports allies in the Sahel in the fight against armed groups that began in northern Mali nearly a decade ago.
But clashes reportedly broke out in Tira, western Niger on Saturday which the mayor said left “three dead and 18 wounded”, including four who were evacuated for treatment in the capital, Niamey, 200 km (120 miles) away.
The French military said it was in contact with the Nigerian authorities, but was “not in a position to confirm this toll at this stage”.
“No French soldier was injured,” French army spokesman Pascal Agany told AFP. However, “two civilian drivers in the convoy were hit with stones, and some civilian trucks were damaged.”
“The convoy stopped last night in Tira. This morning, when they wanted to continue the road to Niamey, they were stopped by 1,000 demonstrators and a violent group among them tried to seize the trucks.
He added that the Nigerian gendarmerie fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Later, in the middle of the morning, “tensions escalated again” and the French gendarmes and soldiers fired “warning shots,” Eanni said before the convoy of more than 100 vehicles could move.
He denied the “false information” published on social media that the French army had killed dozens of civilians in Tira.
After entering Burkina Faso last week, protesters slowed the convoy in Bobo Dioulasso, the country’s second largest city, and then in Ouagadougou, the capital.
On 19 November, several thousand protesters intercepted the convoy in Kaya, about 100 kilometers north of Ouagadougou.
The next day, local sources said that four people were shot in Kaya, in circumstances that remain unclear – French and Burkina Faso soldiers fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Protest organizers said they wanted to expose the flaws in Burkina Faso’s security agreements with former colonial France.
But rumors also circulated on social media – recounted by protesters in Kaya – that the convoy was, in fact, carrying weapons for rebel fighters.
Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Alpha Barry denied the rumors on Wednesday and noted what he said was a long history of helping France in times of crisis.
On Friday, Niger President Mohamed Bazoum expressed his “gratitude” to France and praised France’s “sacrifices” in the Sahel region.