NIAMEY, May 6 (Reuters) - At least three members of the Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram were arrested in neighbouring Niger on Tuesday after they attacked an army patrol in the eastern region of Diffa, government and military sources said.
Diffa, some 1,400 km east of Niger's capital Niamey, borders the Nigerian state of Borno, the epicentre of Boko Haram's uprising. The arid region has received tens of thousands of refugees from the fighting and local Niger officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over Boko Haram infiltration.
"An army patrol fell into a trap set by Boko Haram militants at Rouda, in the Chetimari commune of Diffa," a government source told Reuters. "The fighting lasted about an hour and the arrival of army reinforcements allowed us to take three prisoners, one of whom was wounded."
The source, who asked not to be identified, said the remaining militants fled back to Nigeria.
A military source said there were no casualties among the Niger soldiers but one of their vehicles was damaged by the heavily armed attackers.
He said that, at the time of the ambush, police had arrested around 10 suspected members of Boko Haram in the regional capital Diffa and the surrounding area.
The military source said he was not aware of any link between the arrests and the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria last month. A further eight girls were kidnapped from a village by suspected Boko Haram gunmen on Tuesday.
The kidnappings by the Islamists, who say they are fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria, have shocked a country long inured to the violence around the northeast and has outraged international opinion.
Officials in neighbouring Chad and Cameroon have strongly denied that Boko Haram had taken the girls across the border into their countries. (Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Bate Felix)
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