NIAMEY, Niger – Militants from the Nigeria-based Islamic extremist group Boko Haram crossed the border into neighboring Niger, setting homes ablaze and killing at least 40 people, a local government said Thursday.
The attack marks the latest attempt by Boko Haram to strike inside neighboring countries that have joined the Nigerian military's attempt to quash the group once and for all. Earlier this week, authorities in Chad blamed the group for two suicide bombings in the capital that left at least 33 people dead.
Yakouba Soumana Gaoh, the governor of Niger's Diffa region, said that the army there was hunting down those responsible for the violence overnight in the towns of Lamana and Ngoumawa.
"The attackers looted stores, burned villages and shot at people who tried to flee," he said.
Back in April, Boko Haram attacked Niger and killed at least 58 people, saying the assault was in retaliation for Niger's support of the Nigerian military.
Meanwhile in Chad, the government's military spokesman Col. Azem Bermandoa confirmed that an aerial assault had been launched Wednesday inside Nigeria on Boko Haram positions. The government also has banned women from wearing burqas in public for fear that suicide bombers could use them to hide explosives.
Boko Haram's six-year-old uprising is blamed for the deaths of some 13,000 people. More than 1.5 million have been driven from their homes, some across borders.
Boko Haram took control of a large swath of northeast Nigeria until a multinational force this year forced them out of towns and villages but the group still engages in cross-border hit-and-run attacks.