NIAMEY - Rescuers have found the decomposed bodies of 87 migrants in the harsh Niger desert, some of them eaten by jackals, local officials said, the country's worst such tragedy in a decade.
The victims, nearly all of them women and children, had been trying to reach neighbouring Algeria but are believed to have died of thirst when their truck broke down, according to a senior security source in Niger.
Almoustapha Alhacen, from local aid organisation Aghir In'man, gave a graphic account of the grim discovery on Wednesday about a dozen kilometres (miles) from the Algerian border.
"The corpses were decomposed; it was horrible," he said. "We found them in different locations in a 20-kilometre (12-mile) radius and in small groups, often under trees, or under the sun. Sometimes a mother and children, but some lone children too."
Among the 87 bodies were 48 children, 32 women and seven men, the security official said, adding to the bodies of five women and young children found earlier.
Some of the bodies were "devoured by jackals or other wild beasts," said Alhacen.
All died in early October after a failed attempt to reach Algeria across the inhospitable Sahara desert that covers about 80 per cent of Niger, one of the world's poorest countries.
The bodies were buried according to Muslim rites as and when they were found, added Alhacen.
Nigerien officials had said on Monday that dozens of migrants, most of them women and children, had died of thirst in the Sahara desert earlier this month.