NIAMEY, June 12 Niger's security forces repelled
an overnight assault by gunmen on a military police academy in
the capital Niamey, the defence minister said on Wednesday, an
attack likely to heighten concerns over the Islamist threat in
the West African nation.
The attack on the academy in Niamey's northern Koirategui
suburb followed a June 1 assault on a prison in the capital,
during which more than 20 Islamist prisoners escaped.
In late May, there were twin suicide bombings at a
French-run uranium mine and military barracks in Niger's desert
Defence Minister Mahamadou Karidjo said at least three
motorcyclists had opened fire on a guardpost at the academy late
on Tuesday. At the same time, two men attempted to scale the
outer wall but were spotted by a guard, who opened fire.
The assailants escaped under cover of gunfire from a nearby
4x4 vehicle, he said.
"The gendarmes were able to repel all of these attacks and
we suffered no casualties in our ranks," the minister told
Residents reported sporadic gunfire for around an hour
around the military base. Military police combed the
neighbourhood, which was plunged into darkness by a power cut,
but were unable to locate any of the attackers.
The assault on the Niamey prison killed two guards and freed
22 prisoners including several convicted on terrorism charges.
Among them was Alassane Ould Mohamed, who was serving a 20-year
sentence for the murder of four Saudi Arabians and an American.
Niger has deployed 650 troops in neighbouring Mali to assist
in a French-led push against Islamist rebels who seized the
northern two-thirds of the country last year. Niger's
participation prompted threats of reprisals by militant groups.
The Islamist attack on the Areva mine in Arlit
and the barracks in Agadez last month, which killed 25 people,
was claimed by the MUJWA group that seized part of north Mali
last year and the Mulathameen brigade of veteran jihadist
Ten Islamists fighters also died in the May raids.
(Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; Writing by Daniel Flynn;
editing by Mike Collett-White)