Boko Haram: US Begins Drone Operations Over Sambisa Forest
Troops from the United States of America (USA) yesterday commenced drone surveillance over Sambisa forest in Borno State, North East Nigeria.
According to Leadership, many Boko Haram militants have been spotted by the troops inside Sambisa forest.
Sambisa forest is widely believed to be the fortress of the notorious Boko Haram sect. It is said to be one of the locations where the insurgents are believed to be holding some of the over 200 school girls who were abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state in April, 2014.
It would be recalled that the US government recently said it was sending 300 troops along with surveillance drones to Cameroon to bolster a West African effort to counter the Boko Haram sect.
Nigeria and Cameroon had welcomed the US’ decision.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, had in the wake of the announcement, said the development was welcome, while the military said it demonstrated cooperation that was needed against the Nigeria-based militants, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
“The United States has given the pledge to support the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria and in the region,” Shehu had told AFP by telephone.
“This is the fulfilment of that pledge and we are very happy about it. The United States’ move is quite commendable.”
Also, spokesman of the military, Colonel Rabe Abubakar added, “this is how the fight can be done collectively with partners cooperating with us to fight against a common cause – terrorism – which has been ravaging the region for some time now.”
Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya hailed the US deployment as a “precious contribution” to the fight against the Islamists, who have increased their attacks against civilians using suicide bombers in border areas of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Yesterday’s sighting of the insurgents was an indication that the effort was already yielding result.
Recall that in a notification to Congress, President Barack Obama had said that an advance force of about 90 military personnel began deploying on Monday to Cameroon, with the consent of the Yaounde government.
The troops will “conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the region,” Obama said.
“These forces are equipped with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security, and they will remain in Cameroon until their support is no longer needed,” he added
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the troops would provide intelligence to a multi-national task force being set up to fight Boko Haram, composed of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin Republic.
Boko Haram, which wants to carve out an Islamist caliphate and has allied itself to Islamic State, earlier this year stepped up cross-border attacks on Nigeria’s neighbours.
The American officials said the US soldiers would deploy initially to the city of Garoua in northern Cameroon, not far from the Nigerian border. The force will include Predator drones for surveillance.
The White House said the move was not in response to any changed assessment of threat in the region. The US has no combat troops in Africa, but has been increasing support to allies battling Boko Haram in the region.
The US drone base in Cameroon will provide intelligence support to the multilateral coalition fighting Boko Haram, the radical, jihadist group that seeks to destroy the Nigerian state. The drone base in Cameroon will be the thirteenth surveillance base established by the United States on the African continent. In West Africa, there are U.S. surveillance facilities in Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, and now Cameroon.