NIAMEY (Reuters) - The corpses of more than 80 migrants, most of them women and children who died of thirst, have been found in northern Niger after their vehicle broke down attempting to cross the Sahara Desert, military sources said on Thursday.
The migrants had set off in two trucks from Niger's northernmost mining town Arlit across the desert towards Tamanrasset in Algeria in mid-October but dispersed to find water after their vehicle broke down.
"We have discovered more than 80 bodies scattered in various locations less than 20 km (12 miles) from the border with Algeria," a senior military officer told Reuters by telephone.
Most were women and children. There was no immediate information on their nationalities
Another military officer said about 20 people from the group survived the ordeal. Five of those walked for kilometers (miles) across the burning desert back to Arlit to inform authorities.
The route across the Sahara is still used by many migrants from the region and from farther afield.
More than 32,000 migrants have arrived in southern Europe from Africa so far this year although it was not known if that was the intended destination for this group.
Hundreds of those who make it to the Mediterranean have drowned trying to cross in recent months.
Two separate incidents in southern Italy this month underscored the dangers involved when 366 Eritrean migrants drowned in one disaster and about 200 were missing after another boat sank just over a week later.
(Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi,; Writing by Bate Felix, Editing by Angus MacSwan)