9 March 2015
Chad and Niger intensify military campaign against Boko Haram, international community pledge support
Chad and Niger have intensified the joint military campaign against Boko Haram. Forces from the two states opened a new front in the fight against the Nigerian-based Islamic extremist group amidst growing fears that the conflict, which has been largely restricted to northeast Nigeria and neighbouring borders, could become internationalised.
Concerns of the international community have followed suit. Boko Haram killed approximately 10,000 people in the uprising last year and carried out mass kidnappings, according to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations. On 7 March, its leader, Abubakar Shekau, also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State on behalf of the group. The United States, Britain, France and the European Union along with several other countries have responded by backing the formation of the multinational force led by Nigeria and Chad consisting of approximately 8,750 troops with support from Cameroon, Niger and Benin.
Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o, Cameroon’s minister of defense said soldiers from Cameroon and Niger would patrol borders to prevent militants from escaping along the supply routes the group has been using, while troops from Nigeria and Chad would engage Boko Haram directly. Chadian Brig. Gen. Zakaria Ngobongue confirmed that forces had crossed into northeastern Nigeria from Cameroon but declined to comment further on cooperation. However, witnesses from the Niger town of Bosso reported approximately 200 military vehicles entering Nigerian territory on 7 March.
The intensified military cooperation comes shortly before Nigeria is set to hold elections, which many fear will turn violent after increasing attacks by the extremist group – a conflict that has already displaced 1.6 million people from their homes.