NIAMEY At least 13 of the dozens of migrants from Niger abandoned by smugglers in the Sahara desert last week have been found dead in southern Algeria, a local official and a military source in Niger said on Friday.
Alat Mougaskia, the local representative of the Niamey government in the northern town of Arlit, said 13 bodies had been confirmed in one location. Mougaskia said another 33 people from the same convoy of mainly women and children were believed to have died elsewhere but their bodies had not been found yet.
"These people appear to have gone looking for shelter but died from the lack of food and water," a Niger military source told Reuters, asking not to be named. The source put the estimate for the dead at 30.
There was no immediate comment from authorities in Algeria.
Niger sits at a crossroads of migrant routes linking North Africa to the rest of the continent. The country pledged to crack down on smuggling after 92 migrants died trying to make the same trip to Algeria late last year.
Authorities on both sides of the border have been searching for migrants this week after six women and eight children who were part of a convoy of migrants abandoned by their driver in the desert were rescued by Algerian security forces, officials said.
Most of the migrants heading to Algeria are women and children from Niger's remote southeast who are sent to beg outside mosques in Algeria. The Libya route, however, is popular amongst youth from across West Africa looking to work in Libya or seek a better life in Europe.
(Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki; Writing and additional reporting by David Lewis; Editing by Hugh Lawson)