At least 26 killed in simultaneous car bomb attacks in Niger

NIAMEY, Niger — Suicide bombers in Niger detonated two car bombs simultaneously on Thursday, one inside a military camp in the city of Agadez and another in the remote town of Arlit at a French-operated uranium mine, killing 26 people and injuring 30, according to officials in Niger and France.

A surviving attacker took a group of soldiers hostage, and authorities were attempting to negotiate their release.

The timing of the attacks, which occurred at the same moment more than 100 miles apart, and the fact that the bombers were able to penetrate both a well-guarded military installation and a sensitive, foreign-operated uranium mine, highlight the growing reach and sophistication of the Islamic extremists based in neighboring Mali. The Mali militants have vowed to avenge a French-led military intervention that ousted them from Mali's northern cities.

Both attacks were claimed by a spinoff of Al Qaeda's local chapter, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, said French radio RFI.

The highest toll was in the desert city of Agadez, almost 600 miles northeast of the capital, where the attackers punched their explosive-laden car past the defenses at a military garrison and detonated inside the base, killing 20 soldiers and 16 others, said Niger's Minister of Defense Mahamadou Karidjo at a hastily assembled news conference in the capital, Niamey, on Thursday. Three suicide bombers also died, but a fourth escaped and grabbed a group of military cadets, said Interior Minister Abdou Labo.

The attacker was draped in an explosive belt and was threatening to blow himself up along with his hostages. Labo said by telephone that the military was engaging in negotiations with the militant. He did not say how many hostages were taken.

A different group of two suicide bombers slipped past a truck to enter a uranium mine operated by French nuclear giant Areva, injuring 14 employees of the company, one of whom died later. Both suicide bombers were also killed, according to a company statement, the ministry of defense and witnesses.

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