NIGER REPUBLIC HOLDS ELECTION DESPITE JIHADISTS ATTACKS
Presidential election is ongoing in the Sahel State of Niger Republic despite bloody jihadists attacks.
The Sunday election could seal the country's first ever peaceful handover between elected presidents.
According to the UN's Human Development Index, Niger Republic, which is ranked the world's poorest country, had been unstable since gaining independence from France 60 years ago.
Around 7.4 million people are registered to vote for the ballot for presidency, which coincides with legislative elections.
President Mahamadou Issoufou, who was elected in 2011 after the country's last coup in 2010, is voluntarily stepping down after two five-year terms.
The frontrunner in the 30-strong field is his designated successor, Mohamed Bazoum, 60, a former interior and foreign minister.
Other prominent hopefuls are two former heads of state, Mahamane Ousmane, 70, and Salou Djibo, 55.
Bazoum's main rival, former prime minister Hama Amadou, 70, was last month barred from contesting the vote on the grounds that in 2017 he was handed a 12-month term for alleged baby trafficking -- a charge he says was bogus.
Campaigning has been overshadowed by the issue of security.
The West African country is being faced by Jihadists attacks on its southwestern border with Mali, and its southeastern frontier with Nigeria.
According to official sources in the country, Jihadists from the Boko Haram group on December 12 killed at least 27 people in an attack of "unprecedented savagery" in southeast Niger.
Other people were wounded and some more reported missing in the assault in the village of Toumour in the Diffa region.
According to the UN, four thousand people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger died last year from jihadist violence and ethnic bloodshed stirred by Islamists.
In Niger itself, hundreds have died in the past five years, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.