Nigerian forces kill 300 members of Boko Haram in assault
Nigerian forces have killed more than 300 Boko Haram terrorists during an operation to recapture 11 towns and villages since the start of the week, the military said yesterday, as its war increasingly sucked in neighbours Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
The latest fighting comes as the tide has appeared to turn against Boko Haram, with neighbouring countries plagued by cross border attacks weighing in against the insurgents.
Amid growing global concern, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin are preparing an 8,700-strong force to fight the Islamists.
"Weapons and equipment were also captured and some destroyed," Nigerian defence spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade said of the latest fighting. "However, two soldiers lost their lives while 10 others were wounded."
It was not possible to independently verify the military's statement. Nigerian forces have in past been accused of overstating enemy casualties while greatly understating their own and those of civilians caught in the crossfire.
Cameroonian forces supported by Chad's air force carried out air strikes and used heavy artillery against Boko Haram in the village of Gourgouroon, on the Nigeria-Cameroon border, Cameroon army spokesman Colonel Didier Badjeck said.
In relentless attacks on military and civilians, Boko Haram have killed thousands and abducted hundreds since the group launched its violent campaign for a breakaway Islamic state in mid-2009, threatening the stability of Africa's biggest economy and top oil producer as well as that of the entire region.
Boko Haram was cited as a reason for postponing by six weeks a Nigerian presidential election that had been due to take place last Saturday.
Earlier this week, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau appeared in a video monitored by the US-based SITE Intelligence Group in which he threatened to disrupt the upcoming vote. The militants see democracy as un-Islamic.
Nigerian soldiers said they had recaptured the strategic town of Monguno, on the shores of Lake Chad where the four countries meet, from Boko Haram on Monday. More than 5,000 people fled the town after the insurgents seized it last month.
Olukolade said troops had seized five types of armoured fighting vehicles, an anti-aircraft gun, 50 cases of bombs, eight different types of machine guns, some 50 cases of ammunition and 300 motorcycles.