The US military will share communications equipment and intelligence with African allies to assist them in the fight against Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, the commander of US Special Forces operations in Africa said.
West African military commanders have long complained that cross-border operations against Muslim groups, from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali to Boko Haram in Nigeria, have been obstructed by lack of compatible communications equipment, making it hard to swap information and coordinate.
Major General James Linder said that, as part of the annual US-sponsored “Flintlock” counter-terrorism exercises this year in Chad, the US would introduce technology allowing African partners to communicate between cellphones, radios and computers.
The RIOS system would allow soldiers in the field to transmit photos from a remote location in the Sahel immediately to a central command room and can also precisely pin-point the coordinates of personnel, a US military official said.
Boko Haram killed an estimated 10,000 people last year in its campaign to carve a Muslim emirate from northern Nigeria.
On Tuesday the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, appeared in a video monitored by the US-based SITE Intelligence Group in which he threatened to disrupt upcoming Nigerian elections and condemned regional governments for not following Shariah law.
Amid growing international alarm, the four nations of the Lake Chad region — Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria — plus neighboring Benin are preparing a joint task-force of 8,700 men to take on the Sunni jihadist group.
Chad’s military, which played a leading role in a French-led campaign that ousted militant Muslim groups from northern Mali in 2013, has already led attacks against Boko Haram positions in Nigeria’s border regions.
“The Lake Chad nations are battling Boko Haram and we have a vested interest in that group of nations’ collective success ... What Boko Harm is doing is a murderous rampage, about brutality intolerance and subjugation,” Linder said in an interview late on Monday. “Our national leadership has been very clear that more was going to be done... There is an ongoing discussion on how will we provide additional tools, techniques, and material to partner nations.”
At the Flintlock exercises, the US military will also be introducing a “cloud-based” technology to allow African allies to quickly share intelligence across borders, such as mapping information on the location of potential targets, Linder said.
The US assistance has been welcomed by Chadian Brigadier General Zakaria Ngobongue.
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