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Johannesburg - Two teenage girls wearing explosive vests have been shot dead by soldiers in a town in north-eastern Nigeria just days after a blast killed 14 worshippers, Kenya’s Daily Nation reported on Wednesday.

The girls were shot dead on Tuesday by soldiers patrolling the town of Gamboru after they refused to remove their vests. A third girl was arrested.

"Three teenage suicide bombers were found by soldiers and two of them were killed while the third was arrested with her explosive belt," said Umar Kachalla, a civilian militiaman in the town close to the Cameroon border.

"Two of the girls who were walking together were asked to remove their vests but they refused and were shot dead by troops," he added.

The third girl was spotted after she abandoned her explosive vest in a nearby empty building.

Nigeria has launched a major military assault against the Boko Haram jihadist group following a spike in attacks over the holiday season.

The militants regularly use teenage girls and women to carry out suicide attacks, especially in the city of Maiduguri in Borno State in the restive north-eastern part of the country.

Last Wednesday, 14 worshippers were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in Gamboru during morning prayers.

The eight-year insurgency by Boko Haram has spilled over into Niger, Chad and Cameroon, killing around 20 000 people and displacing more than 2.6 million.

African News Agency/ANA