Boko Haram militants kidnapped 37 women and slit the throats of nine other people at a village in southeastern Niger on Sunday, AFP reported on Tuesday quoting the regional governor. The attack took place at the village of Ngalewa, near the border with Nigeria, the governor of Diffa region, Laouali Mahamane Dan Dano, told state TV.

“The defence and security forces are already in pursuit, and we hope that in the coming days these women will be found and freed,” Dano said, after confirming that Boko Haram militants, who came on foot, had kidnapped 37 women and killed nine persons.

The governor, who travelled to Ngalewa on Monday, claimed the village had been targeted because it was known for “resisting” the militants. The village’s mayor, Abari El Hadj Daouda, said that the attack took place between 10 and 11 pm on Sunday.

The Diffa region, which has a population of around 6 lakh, has been targeted by the Nigeria-based Boko Haram since 2015 in a string of attacks. The region is also home to around 3,00,000 refugees displaced by militant attacks in the country.

The attack took place at a time when French President Emmanuel Macron is visiting Niger’s neighbouring country Mali. The visit was aimed at boosting multinational efforts to fight terrorism in countries south of the Sahara desert. Niger is one of five countries that plans to set up a regional force to fight militancy.

Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the remote northeast Nigerian town of Chibok in 2014. Of these, 57 fled and returned home, while many others were either released or found. Another 113 girls are still missing.