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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

10 killed in Niger suicide bomb blasts at mosque

Assaults come as President Mahamadou Issoufou visits Europe

The area around Diffa has seen fighting between Boko Haram and African security forces. Luc Gnago / Reuters File Photo 
The area around Diffa has seen fighting between Boko Haram and African security forces. Luc Gnago / Reuters File Photo 

Three suicide bombers killed 10 people at a mosque in Niger's south-eastern city of Diffa, an army spokesman said on Tuesday.

"It was last night that these three people exploded their charges during a religious service," the spokesman said. He later said the three bombers were female.

The victims had gathered after breaking their Ramadan fast, the spokesman said.

According to accounts on social media, three explosions were heard at about 10pm (2100 GMT) on Monday in Diffa Koura, an old district of the city.

The attacks came as Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou arrived in Paris for an official visit on Monday. He is to continue to Brussels Tuesday.

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The area around Diffa, close to Lake Chad and the borders with Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, is a stronghold for two factions of militant group Boko Haram, which have been fighting to establish an Islamic state in the region.

The attacks break several months of relative calm in the Diffa region, which since February 2015 has suffered numerous attacks by Boko Haram, based across the border in north-east Nigeria.

Boko Haram has caused the deaths of at least 20,000 people since it took up arms in 2009 in Nigeria. Its offshoot Islamic State in West Africa has pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Security forces have cordoned off the sites and are carrying out search operations throughout the city, a security source said.