Nigeria and four neighbouring countries have declared a “total war” on Boko Haram saying the dreaded Islamist militant group holding over 220 schoolgirls must be crushed as it had become a “regional Al-Qaeda” that threatened all of them.
Under a “global and regional action plan” firmed up to face the challenge posed by Boko Haram, the governments of Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Niger and Chad will share intelligence and border surveillance in the hunt for the girls still held by the militants.
Western nations will provide technical expertise and training to the new regional African effort against the extreme Islamists.
“Boko Haram is no longer a local terror group. It is clearly operating as an Al-Qaeda operation” in central Africa, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said while speaking at a summit hosted by French President Hollande in Paris.
“We have shown our commitment for a regional approach. Without West African countries coming together we will not be able to crush these terrorists,” he said amid criticism that his government has done enough to rescue the schoolgirls abducted last month.
Jonathan said Nigeria has deployed 20,000 troops, aircraft and intelligence sources in areas where Boko Haram is active.
Last month, Boko Haram abducted 223 schoolgirls in northeastern Nigeria, where it is based. It released a video earlier last week showing over 100 of the girls and offering an exchange for prisoners. President Jonathan has ruled out negotiations over their possible release, officials say.
Boko Haram’s guerrilla campaign has claimed 12,000 lives, with 8,000 people injured since 2009, Jonathan said at the summit which brought together Presidents of west African countries of Benin, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
Watch video: Nigeria’s Boko Haram: West African leaders declare ‘war’ on the outfit for kidnapping over 200 schoolgirls