Military top brass meet on Boko Haram

2015-06-09 23:05
Chadian soldiers escorting a group of journalists ride on trucks and pickups in the city of Damasak, Nigeria. (Jerome Delay, AP)

Chadian soldiers escorting a group of journalists ride on trucks and pickups in the city of Damasak, Nigeria. (Jerome Delay, AP)

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Abuja - Military top brass from Nigeria and surrounding countries met on Tuesday to thrash out plans to take on Boko Haram, after the militants struck again in the country's far northeast, killing 15.

The meeting of chiefs of defence staff from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, plus a high-level military official from Benin, came before talks between heads of state and government on Thursday.

In Paris, Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi promised Thursday's meeting would be "decisive" in the fight against the Islamists, whose six-year insurgency has claimed at least 15 000 lives.

His Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari has made crushing the group his new administration's top priority and there has been a flurry of activity on the subject since he took power on May 29.

But the latest attack - the 12th in as many days since Buhari's inauguration - underscored the ongoing threat from the rebels, despite claimed military successes in recent months.

The military meeting was designed to determine strategies for a new, African Union-backed regional force against the rebels, Nigeria's military said in a statement on Monday evening.

As talks opened, chief of defence staff Alex Badeh said it pointed to the countries' "common resolve to work together to put an end to a menace that has become a regional and... global problem".

"If there is any time for us to rise in one voice irrespective of our differences, it is now," he added.

The long-awaited Multi-National Joint Task Force, which was due to have been operational in November, has its headquarters in Chad's capital, N'Djamena, under a senior Nigerian officer.


In the meantime, troops from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon have been fighting Boko Haram insurgents in northeast Nigeria for several months and have claimed a series of successes.

Defence ministers from all five countries are due to meet in Abuja on Wednesday.

In his inaugural speech, Buhari, a former army general, announced the transfer of the military command centre from Abuja to the strategic city of Maiduguri, in the rebels' northeast stronghold.

He then visited Niger and Chad to push for continued co-operation while on Sunday he travelled to the G7 summit in Germany to try to secure support from world powers on the security threat.

On a visit to the French capital for talks with President Francois Hollande, Boni Yayi said Thursday's regional summit would be "decisive" and praised Buhari's leadership on the issue.

Buhari was "very determined and the discussions we have had with him reassured us that this odious phenomenon (Boko Haram) is coming to an end", said Boni Yayi.

The new, 8 700-strong fighting force would be operational "very soon" while his country's troops were on stand-by pending a UN resolution, he added.

500 homes

Boko Haram's latest raid targeted the village of Huyum, in the Askira-Uba district of Borno state, which has been worst affected by the insurgency.

Three residents told AFP the attack began at about 14:00 (13:00 GMT) on Monday and saw the militants open fire and raze mud-brick and straw-thatched properties after dousing them in petrol.

"The whole village was burnt by Boko Haram gunmen. We lost around 500 homes," said Bukar Zira, who fled to the commercial hub of Mubi in neighbouring Adamawa state as the rebels moved in.

"We have so far lost 15 people and one was injured. People in the whole village moved out to different parts of Borno and Adamawa," he added.

A total of 109 people have been killed since Buhari became president, according to AFP reporting, with a wave of attacks in Borno, particularly in the state capital, Maiduguri.

Targets have included military barracks and installations, as well as mosques and markets.

Read more on:    boko haram  |  chad  |  cameroon  |  niger  |  nigeria  |  west africa

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