Concise News correspondents
A high-security prison in Niger has been attacked by gunmen early on Monday in an apparent bid to free Islamist militants, the interior minister told Reuters.
The attackers tried to lay siege to Koutoukale prison, about 50km (30 miles) from the capital Niamey. Niger forces repelled them, Mohamed Bazoum told Reuters. He didn’t go into further details on the fight or whether anyone escaped.
Unstable states surround the land-locked West African country of Niger. Most of the states surrounding it are struggling with Islamist insurgencies.
Jihadist group Boko Haram – some of whose fighters are held in Koutoukale – has launched raids from southern neighbouring country, Nigeria. Militants have also crossed over from Mali to its west, and the Libyan war to its north threatens the whole region as well.
Bazoum said the Mali-based Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) are the most likely culprits for Monday’s attack. MUJWA is one of a number of groups that have long exploited the largely unpoliced Sahara.
Suicide bomber shot dead
“I can confirm one dead among the attackers. He was wearing a suicide vest,” Bazoum told Reuters by phone. “The situation is now under control. Our forces are combing the area to try to catch the attackers still at large.
The attack came days after gunmen raided the house of a U.S. aid worker in central Niger. The gunmen killed his guards and also drove the aid worker across the desert towards Mali.
Gunmen also attacked a refugee camp in Niger’s western Tahoua region, bordering Mali, earlier this month, killing 22 soldiers.