Chadian troops are in Nigeria and are already helping the country reclaim territories lost to Boko Haram. But another neighbour, Niger Republic will send troops to the country, as part of the multi-national battle against the terrorists, after scores of people were killed in a fresh onslaught by the Islamist fighters in a key border town.
Intervention from Niger would open a new northern front in the increasingly regional fight against the Islamist insurgents who killed over a hundred people, including 19 soldiers, on Wednesday in a rampage in the Cameroonian town of Fotokol on Nigeria’s border.
“They (Boko Haram) attacked and burnt three mosques in the attack,” Mele Mohammed, a Fotokol community leader, told AFP. “In the mosque, in the Tashangalau area, they killed 31 people who were praying.”
“Our consolation is that our attackers also suffered heavy casualties, especially when the fighter jets bombed them as they fled,” he said.
A Nigerien government source said the country’s parliament will on Monday, vote on sending its troops to Nigeria to fight the militants.
“Niger is indeed going to send troops to Nigeria as part of the struggle against Boko Haram,” the source told AFP.
Only a stream, the Komadougou Yobe, separates Niger and Nigeria. It will even be easier for the troops to enter now that the water level has dropped.
Apart from the Nigerien soldiers that will join over 2,000 of their counterparts from Chad, African Union leaders have also backed plans for about 7,500 troops to take on the extremists, who are in control of vast swathes of northeast Nigeria.
Ahead of the deployment of the troops, African and Western experts met in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital city, on Thursday, to devise the combat strategy against the Islamist militants.
The three-day summit “amounts to a crucial, determining and decisive step in the war that the international community has decided to intensify against Boko Haram,” Cameroon’s Defence Minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o said.
Nigeria has reacted defensively to the presence of foreign troops on its soil.
“Nigeria’s territorial integrity remains intact,” defence spokesman Chris Olukolade insisted, claiming that national forces had “planned and are driving the present onslaught against terrorists from all fronts in Nigeria, not the Chadian forces”.
Boko Haram began its campaign of violence in Nigeria in 2009. The sect wants to create an Islamic State in the country as it sees western ways of life, especially education, as sin.