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Niger suicide attacks fuel fears Mali conflict could spread

Niger suicide attacks fuel fears Mali conflict could spread
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There are fears that militant violence in West Africa is spreading after a double suicide attack in Niger which left more than 20 people dead, mostly soldiers.

They are the first such attacks experienced by the country which is involved in a French-led offensive in neighbouring Mali against Islamist rebels.

At Agadez in the north, around 20 troops were killed and 16 others injured when the bombers attacked an army barracks. A French-run uranium mine at Arlit was also targeted.

The MUJWA, a West African offshoot of al Qaeda’s North African wing has claimed responsibility. The group was among Islamist forces ousted from northern Mali earlier this year.

The Algerian commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar “supervised” the attacks, according to a Mauritanian news agency. In March the Chadian army said it had killed him but this was never confirmed.

Security had been stepped up at the uranium mine operated by the French nuclear group Areva. A car bomb there left one person dead and many injured.

The attacks are seen as evidence that the conflict in Mali is spilling over.

The French President Francois Hollande has vowed to protect his nation’s interests and to support Niger in its “fight against terrorism”.