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Libyan Newswire

Nigeria’s neighbors joining war on Boko Haram

African securityNigeria’s neighbors joining war on Boko Haram

Published 4 February 2015

In a communiquéadopted by the peace and security council of the African Union (AU), African leaders are responding to the threat posed by Boko Haram with plans of sending a 7,500-member regional force to northern Nigeria to search for those abducted by Boko Haram and to stop the militant group from spreading beyond Nigeria’s borders and into neighboring Chad, Cameroon, and Niger.One diplomat noted that Nigeria’s “fragility” in the face of Boko Haram has prompted neighboring countries to act. “There is a serious concern that if nothing is done, this Boko Haram terror group could affect a huge chunk of the continent,” the diplomat said. “What the region needs to do is to address this head on.”

In a communiqué adopted by the peace and security council of the African Union (AU), African leaders are responding to the threat posed by Boko Haram with plans of sending a 7,500-member regional force to northern Nigeria to search for those abducted by Boko Haram and to stop the militant group from spreading beyond Nigeria’s borders and into neighboring Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. The AU, however, has not authorized cross-border operations, a sensitive issue which may be the key to defeating Boko Haram and finding hundreds of kidnapped victims.

Spokesmen for the Chadian and Nigerien military reported that last Thursday that Chadian forces defeated Boko Haram in Malam Fatori, a northern Nigerian town that Boko Haram had held since October. “This morning the Chadians retook Malam Fatori. There were clashes with Boko Haram that lasted over 24 hours,” a Nigerien army officer in the adjacent region of Diffa told Yahoo! News. “We confirm it,” a Chadian military spokesman, Col. Abouna Azem, said last Thursday. “It’s been retaken.” “There were combat aircraft but we don’t know their nationality,” the Nigerien Army officer added.

A Nigerian Army spokesman said Nigerian troops had also joined that operation.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has the continent’s largest military and contributes significant numbers of troops to UN peacekeeping missions worldwide. Some say Nigeria’s need for military support from neighboring countries has been an embarrassment, but Nigeria “has never objected to cross-border operations in the fight against Boko Haram,” said a Nigerian Army spokesman. One UN diplomat told theNew York Times that Nigeria’s “fragility” in the face of Boko Haram has prompted neighboring countries to act. “There is a serious concern that if nothing is done, this Boko Haram terror group could affect a huge chunk of the continent,” the diplomat said. “What the region needs to do is to address this head on.”

African security analysts report that territorial disputes between Cameroon and Nigeria could hinder cross-border operations. Cameroon strongly objects to operations that could lead to having Nigerian soldiers on Camroon’s soil, they note, adding that Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria agreed in October 2014 to a joint force, headquartered in Baga, northern Nigeria. Disputes among the countries delayed full deployment of troops and last month, Boko Haram militants entered Baga, killing hundreds and possibly thousands of people.

Ministers from the five countries, along with AU and United Nations officials will meet this month to approve plans for the regional force. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chairwoman of the African Union Commission wrote on Twitter last Friday that “Terrorism, in particular of #BokoHaram, requires a response that is collective, decisive & effective to achieve the desired results.”

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