ABADAM - Soldiers in Niger killed 14 unarmed civilians after mistaking them for Boko Haram militants during a patrol in the remote southeast of the country, a senior regional official said on Thursday.

Nigerien soldiers were patrolling a militarily restricted zone around the village of Abadam near Lake Chad on Wednesday afternoon when they opened fire on what turned out to be farmers, according to Yahaya Godi, the Secretary General of the Diffa region of southeast Niger.

“Fourteen people are dead. Abadam is a village located in the red zone and has been prohibited for a very long time,” said Godi. “Any individual seen in the area is considered Boko Haram.”

He said two of the dead were from Niger and the rest from neighboring Nigeria, where Boko Haram is based and from which the jihadist group has sometimes carried out cross-border attacks into Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

It was not immediately clear why the civilians were in the restricted area.