Military forces from Niger and Chad opened a new line of fighting in the regional fight against Boko Haram the Islamic radical extremist group, as military vehicles loaded with soldiers moved across the border into Nigeria’s northeast, said witnesses and officials on Monday.
The escalation in the joint battle in Africa against the jihadists based in Nigeria comes only weeks before Nigerians will have elections that many fear would turn dramatically violent and after a number of attacks from the group on nearby countries who pledged to help the Nigerians defeat the group.
On Monday, a Brig. General from Chad said that his troops beside Niger troops had crossed into Nigeria. He did not give any details about what the current operation is. Chad forces already had crossed into Nigeria’s northeast from Cameroon to fight jihadis there.
Boko Haram has fought close to a six-year insurgency versus the government of Nigeria and this past Saturday declared allegiance to Islamic State the extremists radical group that has taken large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria. Boko Haram is known for its mass kidnappings including taking schoolgirls.
The Chadian Brig Gen said the group was criminals and bandits who had nothing to do with religion. Witnesses inside Bosso a town in Niger, reported close to 200 military vehicles had crossed into Nigeria. One resident there said the military deployment was followed by a number of load detonations signaling first heavy combat versus the Boko Haram.
Describing the increased military activity a spokesman for the Chadian government said there were some maneuvers along the axis that Nigerians forces were also involved in.
The minister of defense in Cameroon said troops from Chad and Nigeria would fight the Boko Haram, while Cameroon and Niger soldiers would guard the borders to prevent militants from escaping. For a long time, Boko Haram has used Cameroon as a supply and escape route.
Residents in conflict zones located in Cameroon were asked to leave, said the minister.
Britain, France, the U.S. and the European Union are supporting the formation of a force of 8,750 troops led by Chan and Nigeria with contingents from Benin, Niger and Cameroon.