Niger's military says nine security forces have been killed in three simultaneous attacks in the country near the border with Mali.

Col. Laudru Moustapha said in a statement that the militants attacked a prison, a refugee camp for Malians, and a patrol of Niger security forces early Thursday.

It was not clear who carried out the attacks, but they freed many inmates from the prison, which had been holding Tuareg separatists. Tuaregs took control of northern Mali for a time following a coup in 2012. They were eventually ousted by al-Qaida-linked militants, who have since also been scattered throughout the region by a French-led intervention.

Moustapha said defense forces were hunting for the freed prisoners and the attackers. Four security forces were wounded in the attacks and three are missing.