Suicide bombers kill 10 in attack on mosque in southeastern Niger

(A Niger soldier guards with his weapon pointed towards the border with neighbouring Nigeria, near the town of Diffa, Niger, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Luc Gnago/File Photo)

Three suicide bombers killed 10 people at a mosque in Niger’s southeastern city of Diffa who had gathered after breaking the Ramadan fast, 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 revealed that the three bombers were female.

Southeast Niger has seen sporadic attacks by militants loosely linked to Boko Haram. The Islamist group has gradually split into two factions, one of which has pledged allegiance to Syria-based Islamic State.

Troops from Niger and the United States killed 11 Islamist militants from that Islamic State affiliate in a firefight last December.

Boko Haram uses female suicide bombers in their campaigns against security forces and civilians, in part because they attract less suspicion.

More than 15,000 people have been killed and millions displaced by the conflict in the Lake Chad region.

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.

After a deadly assault on the Nigerien town of Bosso in June 2016 that  killed 32 soldiers, Chad sent 2,000 troops to help Niger, but they were withdrawn in October last year.