Extremists Claim Responsibility for Niger Attacks

(NIAMEY, Niger) — Suicide bombers in Niger detonated two car bombs simultaneously, one inside a military camp in the city of Agadez and another in the remote town of Arlit at a French-operated uranium mine, killing 26 people and injuring 30, according to officials in Niger and France. A surviving attacker took a group of soldiers hostage, and authorities were attempting to negotiate their release. The attack in Arlit was claimed by Moktar Belmoktar, the extremist who led the attack on a natural gas plant in Ain Amenas in Algeria in January, according to a communique posted on jihadist forums. Both attacks were claimed by a spinoff of al-Qaida, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, which earlier vowed to avenge the four-month-old French-led military intervention which ousted them from neighboring Mali’s north. The timing of the attacks, which occurred at the same moment more than 160 kilometers (100 miles) apart, and the fact that the bombers were able to penetrate both a well-guarded military installation and a sensitive, foreign-operated uranium mine, highlight the growing reach and sophistication of the Islamic extremists based in Mali. The bomb blasts are the most damaging attacks by the jihadists to date. Of the two attacks, the higher death toll was in the desert city of Agadez, located almost 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) northeast of the capital, where the attackers punched their explosive-laden car past the defenses at a military garrison and detonated inside the base, killing 20 soldiers and injuring 16, said Niger’s Minister of Defense Mahamadou Karidjo at a press conference in Niamey. Three suicide bombers died, but a fourth escaped and grabbed a group of military cadets, said Interior Minister Abdou Labo. Draped in an explosive belt, the attacker was threatening to blow himself up along with his hostages, said Labo, who could not confirm how many cadets were being held. The military was negotiating with the suicide bomber for their release. At the same time the Agadez attack occurred, a different group of suicide bombers slippedb.gif?host=world.time.com&blog=19871253&post=87554&subd=timeglobalspin&ref=&feed=1

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