Niamey - Gunmen have abducted five aid workers - four from Niger and one from Chad - as well as a driver in south-eastern Niger, a local official told AFP Monday.
"Five aid workers, including a Chadian, and a driver were kidnapped at their home around 22:00 by armed men driving two 4x4 vehicles" in the village of Dakoro, local official Abou Mahamane said.
The abduction was confirmed by an aid group and a security source.
Mahamane, who is secretary general of the Dakoro region, said the abductors "spoke Arabic, Tamasheq [the language of the Tuareg tribes] and Hausa", a regional language.
The aid workers were "kidnapped by men with pale skin and one with black skin, speaking Arabic. The Chadian probably tried to resist and was injured but he was still taken away", said a humanitarian source.
Mahamane said the humanitarian staff worked mainly for the Niger Association for Family Wellbeing (ANBEF), a local non-governmental organisation.
The kidnappers "headed straight for the Agadez region" in northern Niger, close to the border with Mali, and "security forces lost track of them in the Abala zone, about 300km south of Agadez, in the Tahoua region", he added.
"Reinforcements arrived at Dakoro, African humanitarian workers are still there and the site has been secured by reinforcements from Maradi and Tahoua," he said.
Dakoro is situated in the region around Maradi, the economic capital of Niger and the main town in an area close to the Nigerian border, where the Islamist group Boko Haram operates.
ANBEF co-operates with the US NGO Care, according to a Western diplomatic source in Niamey. In connection with aid work, "Westerners often stay in Dakoro, and it is highly likely that the kidnappers were looking for them," the source said.
In September 2010, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the north African branch of al-Qaeda, kidnapped seven people in the Agadez desert region, the birthplace of previous revolts by Tuaregs, and four French people are still held.