Three girl suicide bombers, sent by militant group Boko Haram, were shot dead on Wednesday by armed gunmen as they ran towards a military checkpoint in an attempt to target a bustling market near the village of Madagali in north-eastern Nigeria.
The armed gunmen, who work alongside the Nigerian military, challenged the girls as they approached the checkpoint, according to the Associated Press.
However, the girls began running towards the gunmen who subsequently opened fire on them, activating the explosives on their body. One of the girls tried to flee but was gunned down.
“Our soldiers are on alert and commercial activities are continuing at the market,” said army spokesman, Major Badare Akintoye.
Over the last few months, Nigerian soldiers, and the civilian gunfighters who accompany them, have prevented a number of suicide bombers from detonating their explosives before they could reach populated areas.
But in December, two female suicide bombers killed 57 people and injured 177, including 120 children, at Madagali market, 20 kilometres from Wednesday’s incident.
Dozens of women and girls, some as young as seven and thought to have been kidnapped by Boko Haram, have been used in successful and attempted attacks.
The Nigerian government declared last month that it had crushed Boko Haram, but the attacks on villages and military posts in the countryside continue.
Despite the continuing attacks, troops from Nigeria and neighbouring countries have managed to expel the Islamic extremists from many of the towns and villages where they had declared a caliphate in an attempt to create an Islamic state in Nigeria.
The country has a population of 170 million people, equally divided between Muslims and Christians.
Boko Haram’s seven-year-old Islamic uprising has killed more than 20,000 people, driven 2.6 million from their homes and created a massive humanitarian crisis that the United Nations says has 5.1 million people facing starvation.