Nigerian security thwarts Boko Haram plan to target US, UK embassies
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Nigeria's security services said Wednesday that they had thwarted a plan by Boko Haram militants to attack the British and US embassies in the capital Abuja.
A statement from the Department of State Services said that it broke up a cell late last month that had "perfected plans to attack" the embassies along with "other Western interests" in Nigeria's capital.
The statement said five suspects who had been based in Benue State and the Federal Capital Territory were arrested. The US State Department issued an updated travel warning for Nigeria on April 5, warning that Boko Haram had targeted government installations and other venues in the Federal Capital Territory and elsewhere.
The announcement of the thwarted attack came on the same day that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that Boko Haram's use of children as suicide bombers had already surged in 2017. UNICEF said 27 children – mostly girls – had been used in suicide attacks in the first three months of the year in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, the countries most active in fighting Boko Haram. There were nine cases in the same period last year and 30 children used for bombings in all of 2016.
Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of children and teenagers, often raping them and forcing them to become sex slaves, suicide bombers or militants themselves.
“These children are victims, not perpetrators,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa.
The Boko Haram insurgency, which is aimed at creating an Islamist state in the country's north, has already claimed more than 20,000 lives and displaced more than 2 million. "Up to 2.1 million people fled their homes at the height of the conflict, 1.8 million of whom are currently internally displaced," according to the UN.
The group gained global notoriety after it kidnapped 276 girls from the town of Chibok in 2014.
Some of the girls escaped or were rescued, but many remain prisoners of the militant group. Friday will mark three years since thier abduction.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in March 2015, giving the Islamist group its first cell in sub-Saharan Africa.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)