Nigeria vows tighter Christmas security

2013-12-01 05:00

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Maiduguri - Nigeria on Saturday pledged to secure communities near its northern and eastern borders with Chad, Niger and Cameroon over Christmas and New Year due to fears about Boko Haram strikes.

The banned Islamist group has previously launched deadly attacks on and around the Christian festival. A wave of attacks against churches and police on 25 December, 2011, left 49 people dead.

Troops have been deployed to frontier villages and towns in Borno state that have been targeted while suspected Boko Haram bases were being cleared, backed by air support, said area army spokesperson Colonel Mohammed Dole.

"We have identified their hideouts and we are determined to make all the border communities and the state generally free of Boko Haram activities so that people can move freely and celebrate the Yuletide peacefully," he added.

Borno and two other states in Nigeria's Muslim-majority north have been under emergency rule since May this year as part of government efforts to put down a bloody four-year insurgency that has claimed the lives of thousands.

The United Nations said this month that more than 37 000 people had fled northern Nigeria for neighbouring Niger because of violence between the army and Boko Haram, who have been pushed into the countryside from urban bases.

Boko Haram fighters are also suspected to have crossed the porous frontiers to launch attacks before retreating, prompting calls from Nigeria for surrounding countries to help it tackle the threat.

Two weeks ago, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnap of a French priest in northern Cameroon.

Borno state deputy governor Zanna Umar Mustapha said on Friday that the military would now set up permanent bases in some of the trouble spots.

Army spokesperson Brigadier General Ibrahim Attahiru said talks were on-going for an improved regional strategy.

"That is being taken care of at the strategic diplomatic level. There is that level of co-operation," he added.

"You might not be able to see it at the lower level but rest assured that the governments are talking on how best they co-operate because the Boko Haram phenomenon has gone beyond the northeast of Nigeria.

"It has spread to Niger, Cameroon and Chad."

Read more on:    boko haram  |  nigeria  |  west africa  |  security  |  religion

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