Saturday 24 February 2018

Boko Haram attacks town in Niger

Several African countries are planning to send troops to battle Boko Haram. (AP)
Several African countries are planning to send troops to battle Boko Haram. (AP)

Islamic extremists from Nigeria have attacked a town inside the neighbouring country of Niger, marking the second foreign country attacked by Boko Haram this week.

The attackers were later repelled by forces from Chad and Niger, witnesses said.

The incursion comes as Niger and several other African countries plan to send troops to battle the Islamic extremists, seen as a growing threat not only to Nigeria but to the region of West and Central Africa.

Chad and Cameroon in recent days have already began using military forces to attack Boko Haram.

It is not clear if there were casualties in the early morning attack on Bosso, the Niger town bordering north-eastern Nigeria. Soldiers from Niger and Chad rushed to the scene and engaged in an hour-long fight in which Boko Haram retreated, leaving the streets deserted, said Abba Hassan, a pharmacist in Bosso.

"Niger and Chadian planes are conducting surveillance at the moment in town and troops on the ground are combing through the streets," Mr Hassan said.

French radio station RFI also carried news of the attack, citing local residents.

The area of Niger where the attack took place is where refugees have already arrived by the thousands seeking safety from Boko Haram violence in Nigeria.

In a January 31 message, Boko Haram fighters vowed to seek revenge on Niger if they aided the growing military effort by several African nations against the terror group.

"Their government is leading them into a dark tunnel if it joins a coalition with Chad and Cameroon against us, that it will use their sons in a war in which they have nothing to gain but fighting against Allah and His messenger," said a transcript released by SITE intelligence monitoring service.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Boko Haram fighters attacked Fotokol, a town in Cameroon about 60 miles from Bosso, leaving nearly 100 people dead and 500 wounded, according to Cameroonian officials.

The extremists razed mosques and churches and used civilians as human shields before Cameroonian forces pushed them back across the border to Nigeria.

"Cameroonian soldiers assisted by Chadian forces have successfully chased hundreds of Boko Haram fighters out of the Cameroonian locality of Fotokol on the border with Nigeria," said government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary.

The cross-border assaults came after Boko Haram was bombed out of several Nigerian towns earlier this week by Nigerian and Chadian jets. Cameroon and Chad joined Nigeria in launching an air and ground offensive against the insurgents on at least two fronts this week.

More neighbouring countries are mobilising to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram. Regional leaders are meeting for a second day in Cameroon's capital, Yaounde, to finalise plans for a co-ordinated military response to the terror group blamed for killing 10,000 people over the past year.

Last week, leaders of the African Union authorised a 7,500-strong force to fight Boko Haram, including pledges of troops from Nigeria and four neighbouring countries, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin.

The United Nations has offered logistical support. The deployment of the multinational African force could be could be delayed by funding issues.

Boko Haram has increased the tempo and ferocity of its attacks just as Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and its biggest oil producer, is preparing for presidential and legislative elections on February 14.

Press Association

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