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At Least 40 Dead as Boko Haram Fighters Loot and Burn Villages in Niger

The Nigeria-based militant group carried out a pair of attacks on two separate villages in neighboring Niger just days after authorities blamed them for a pair of deadly suicide bombing in Chad.
June 18, 2015, 8:46pm
Photo by Jerome Delay/AP

Boko Haram militants have exported their violence from Nigeria for the second time this week, waging violent attacks on two towns in neighboring Niger that killed at least 40 people, a government official reported on Thursday.

Members of the Nigeria-based Islamist extremist group crossed the border into Niger to carry out the violence, reportedly setting homes on fire in the villages of Lamana and Ngoumawa, according to Yakouba Soumana Gaoh, the governor of Niger's Diffa region.

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"The attackers looted stores, burned villages, and shot at people who tried to flee," the official said, adding that authorities were searching for the perpetrators.

Today's attacks follow two suicide bombings in the Chad, which lies along Nigeria's northeast border, earlier this week that left 34 people dead. Carried out in the capital N'Djamena, these were the first suicide bombings of this nature in the capital. Four suicide bombers were reportedly involved in the plot, two in each building that was targeted.

Authorities pinned the pair of attacks on Boko Haram, with an official saying on Thursday that at least five suspects were arrested.

"There has been progress," Chad's Interior and Public Security Minister Abderahim Bireme Hamid said of the response to the violence that injured 100 people. "Several suspects, between five and six, have been arrested."

Related: The War Against Boko Haram (Full Length)

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Chad's government reacted to the attacks domestically by employing a burka and turban ban on its citizens, a majority of whom are Muslim. Prime Minister Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet said the religious coverings would also be pulled off the shelves of local markets, Reuters reported.

Militarily, Chad responded to the June 15 attacks by launching an aerial assault on Wednesday on Boko Haram bases and positions inside Nigeria — although Nigeria denied the claims, saying the targets were more likely in Niger.

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"Although the terms of the multilateral and bilateral understanding with partners in the war against terror allow some degree of hot pursuit against the terrorists, the territory of Nigeria has not been violated," said Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, Nigeria's director of defense information.

Chad has provided major military support to Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram, which has quickly turned into a regional battle, counting Niger and Cameroon as allies as well.

The militants, who have waged a brutal uprising in Nigeria's northeast for the past six years, have in the past criticized regional leaders for getting involved, specifically launching threats at Chad's president. Prior to Monday's unprecedented suicide bombings in the capital, Boko Haram had attacked Chad's border villages along the lake that sits between the two West African nations.

Boko Haram's violent campaign has been blamed for killing 13,000 people and displacing another 1.5 million.

Related: 'You Don't Fight War With War Crimes': Highlighting Nigerian Military Abuses — Again

The Associated Press contributed to this report.