Security forces in southeast Niger shot dead four suicide bombers from the Boko Haram jihadist group as they prepared to blow themselves up at a fuel depot, local sources said on Monday.
“Four BH suicide bombers were killed last night by the FDS (the defence and security forces) at the city of Diffa near the Nigerien Company for Oil Storage,” or SONIDEP, a municipal official told AFP.
The depot, which stores oil and gas for the region, “was undoubtedly their target,” an elected official said. “Fortunately, they were stopped in time.”
Hours earlier, “Two suspected Boko Haram elements were arrested as they preparing to carry out an attack, apparently on a (local) church,” the source said.
“Explosive belts were found in a search of an address that they gave to the police.”
Diffa, a city of around 200,000 people, has borne the brunt of raids launched by the jihadists from their stronghold in northeast Nigeria.
In mid-April, jihadists attacked the central police barracks and took several people hostage in the home of a policeman.
Two members of the two security forces and two assailants were killed in an hours-long battle, according to an incomplete toll.
Last June, six people were killed when three suicide bombers exploded their suicide belts in a coordinated attack.
An estimated 27,000 people have been killed and two million displaced since Boko Haram launched its insurgency in northeastern Nigeria in 2009, a campaign that has spilled over to Niger as well as Burkina Faso and Chad.
In Niger itself, 88 civilians were killed by Boko Haram in March alone, and more than 18,000 villagers forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.