Africa Leaders Declare ‘War’ on Boko Haram as Fresh Attacks Rock Borno
African leaders have pledged to wage “total war” on Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group who kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria.
The group is “acting clearly as an al-Qaida operation”, the Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, said. Speaking at a summit of African leaders in Paris, he said the threat posed by the militant group was now an international problem.
The French president, François Hollande, who is hosting the talks, said Boko Haram had links to al-Qaida and other terrorist organisations.
“Boko Haram is a major threat for all of western Africa and now central Africa with proven links to AQIM [al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb] and other terrorist organisations,” he said.
“A comprehensive plan needs to be put in place from exchanging information to coordinating action and controlling borders.”
The president of Chad, Idriss Déby, said: “There is determination to tackle this situation head on” and “to launch a war, a total war on Boko Haram”.
Speaking before the talks in Paris, William Hague urged west African nations to put aside their differences to end rebel attacks.
“This is one sickening and terrible incident, but they continue almost every day to commit terrorist attacks and atrocities of other kinds, so they have to be defeated in the region,” the UK foreign secretary said. “That requires a better regional strategy among the African countries, but with our support.”
He said Nigerian security forces were not well structured to deal with the threat posed by Boko Haram.
“We can help with that, which is why we are offering to embed military advisers within the Nigerian headquarters,” he said. “Nigeria has the main responsibility and must be the leading nation in tackling this and that includes to mount an effective security response and improve development.”
The presidents of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin were invited to the meeting in Paris, with representatives from France, the UK, the US and the European Union.
Hague said West African countries should set up a joint intelligence “fusion cell” to pool information in the hunt for the missing girls. “There are many borders here and they are porous borders,” he said. “We need all of those countries to be bringing together their intelligence and information. This is very relevant to finding the schoolgirls, not just to the long-term defeat of Boko Haram.”
The UK and US have offered help to Nigeria’s search operation, and experts are already in the country. An RAF surveillance aircraft and a military team have also been offered.
A video emerged on Monday showing about 130 of the girls wearing hijabs and reciting Koranic verses
President Idriss Deby of Chad said regional powers would “tackle this situation head on” and wage “total war on Boko Haram”.
Representatives from the UK, US and EU also took part in the meeting.
Mr Jonathan was due on Friday to visit the town where the girls were seized. However the trip was cancelled for security reasons.
Boko Haram released a video earlier this week showing more than 100 of the girls and offering an exchange for prisoners.
The girls, who include Christians and Muslims, were seized on 14 April from their school hostel in the north-east Nigerian town of Chibok in Borno state.
President Jonathan has ruled out negotiations over their possible release, officials say.
As Saturday’s summit began, news of fresh violence emerged.
In the far north of Cameroon, near the Nigerian border, attackers targeted a camp run by a Chinese engineering company. Ten Chinese workers are missing and one person was injured.
There are reports that one person was killed.
In Nigeria itself, 11 people were reported killed in a separate attack in village a few hours’ drive from the Cameroonian border.
A relative of one of the victims said a woman and a child were among the dead.
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