ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian security officials have thwarted plans by Islamic State group-linked Boko Haram members to attack the embassies of the United States and Britain, authorities said Wednesday.
A Department of State Services statement said it broke up a ring that had "perfected plans to attack the UK and American embassies and other Western interests" in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.
The statement said five suspects who had been based in Benue state and the Federal Capital Territory were arrested on March 25 and 26. Another 20-year-old Boko Haram member was arrested March 22 in Yobe state and "confessed his involvement in executing the sinister activities of the group."
The statement gave no further details, and officials with the department could not immediately be reached.
"For purposes of operational security, we do not comment on our security posture," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington. He added: "The United States appreciates the work of Nigeria's Department of State Security and Nigerian security forces in fighting terrorism and keeping citizens and residents safe."
The State Department on April 5 issued an updated travel warning for Nigeria, warning that Boko Haram has targeted government installations and other venues in the past in the Federal Capital Territory and elsewhere. In 2011, Boko Haram attacked the U.N.'s Nigeria headquarters in Abuja with a car bomb that detonated in the reception area, killing at least 21 people.
"We are grateful for the support we receive from the Nigerian security authorities in protecting UK diplomatic staff and premises in Nigeria," a British government statement said. "We are in regular contact with the Nigerian security authorities concerning potential threats to UK interests in Nigeria."
One faction of Boko Haram is allied with the Islamic State group.
Nigeria's president late last year declared the Boko Haram insurgency "crushed," but its fighters continue to threaten the vast region around Lake Chad in defiance of a multinational force. It has increasingly used children, especially girls, as suicide bombers.
Boko Haram's seven-year Islamic uprising has killed more than 20,000 people and driven 2.6 million from their homes, with millions facing starvation.
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman in Washington contributed.