Niger army killed 14 refugees in the restive southeast mistaking the civilians as Boko Haram fighters, an official told AFP on Thursday (6 July).

It was not clear how and when the unfortunate incident took place. However, there were conflicting reports that the civilians were either killed in air strikes or in a gun battle in a "no-go zone" near Diffa city.

Two of the victims were from Niger while the others were from Nigeria, the BBC reported. The villagers were killed while they were returning to their village in the Abadam area to tend to their crops.

Entry to the area, which was once infested by Boko Haram militants, has been banned for the past two years when Niger authorities moved villagers from the area to refugee camps in safer places.

The Abadam village lies near the Komadougou river, which serves as a natural border between Niger and Nigeria.

"Abadam is a village located in the red zone and has been prohibited for a very long time... Any individual seen in the area is considered Boko Haram," Yahaya Godi, Diffa's secretary general, said.

A local official told AFP that the villagers had not intimated the authorities about their return to the village.

The news agency added that an air strike had killed the group of villagers. However, Reuters reported that soldiers patrolling the area opened fire on them thinking they were militants.

The incident happened just two days after Boko Haram fighters killed nine people in Ngalewa village near Diffa and abducted 37 women.

Diffa, which has a population of around 600,000 people, has witnessed a string of Boko Haram attacks since 2015. The Isis-linked militant group have targeted both civilians and military personnel.

The ensuing violence has led to the displacement of nearly 300,000 people who have taken refuge in other parts of the country, according to a Vanguard report.