Tue, Mar 10, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Niger, Chad attack Boko Haram after IS pledge of allegiance

AFP, NIAMEY and N’DJAMENA

A military offensive by troops from Chad and Niger has retaken the northeastern Nigerian town of Damasak and left about 200 militants dead, a Chadian security source said yesterday.

Boko Haram had held the town near the Niger border since November last year.

Ten Chadian soldiers were killed and 20 wounded in the offensive that began on Sunday, the source said.

A Niger official in Diffa, located across the border from Damasak, confirmed the town had been retaken after heavy fighting.

Niger and Chad on Sunday launched major ground and air strikes in northeast Nigeria against Boko Haram, after the militants formally pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The attacks, which follow a sustained buildup of troops in southern Niger, opens up a new front in regional efforts to wipe out the militant group, whose six-year insurgency has spread across borders.

“Very early this morning, troops from Niger and Chad began an offensive against Boko Haram... in the area of Bosso and near to Diffa,” a Nigerien government source in Niamey said on condition of anonymity.

More than 200 vehicles, some of them with machine guns, as well as tanks, ambulances, water tankers and transport trucks, were seen moving toward the border, radio station Anfani, based in Diffa, said.

Aircraft targeted Boko Haram positions on Saturday and early Sunday, it added, while a Diffa resident and aid worker said troops were seen heading to the border and heavy gunfire was heard.

The previously lackluster counterinsurgency against Boko Haram has been given renewed vigor with the deployment of troops from Cameroon, Chad and Niger last month.

The armies have claimed a series of successes in rebel-held territory in recent weeks, as part of an operation to clear and control northeast Nigeria in time for general elections set for March 28.

Much of the focus has been on Chad’s well-trained army, who have experience in tackling extremists in Mali alongside French forces.

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