Several people have been taken hostage and a policeman killed in an attack by Boko Haram militants in a troubled region of southeastern Niger, a senior official told AFP on Wednesday.
The jihadists, some of them believed to be wearing suicide vests, launched the assault on various parts of the city of Diffa on Tuesday night and it was “still in progress” Wednesday morning, the official said.
Residents described hearing gunshots and loud explosions near the police station.
Two jihadists have been killed, according to provisional figures.
“The attackers, hunted by the security forces, have holed up in the home of a policeman and taken several people hostage,” the official said, who wanted to remain anonymous.
One Diffa resident told AFP the police are “still trying to dislodge them.”
Diffa is close to northeastern Nigeria and borders the Lake Chad basin. It has suffered repeat attacks from Boko Haram.
An estimated 27,000 people have been killed and two million displaced since Boko Haram launched its insurgency in northeastern Nigeria in 2009, a campaign that has spilled over to Niger, as well as Burkina Faso and Chad.
Across Niger, 88 civilians were killed by Boko Haram in March alone, and more than 18,000 people forced to flee their villages, according to the United Nations.
The UN has said it is alarmed by the “rapid deterioration of the security situation” in the Diffa region.