• Five countries to send 8,700 troops to quash sect
• Malala calls for ‘urgent action’ to free Chibok schoolgirls
Senator Iroegbu with agency report
Boko Haram fighters on Sunday waged attacks on a barracks in Yobe State and a southeastern border town in Niger Republic, where a blast killed at least one person and left 10 injured, witnesses and hospital sources said.
The Islamist militants launched their assault around the town of Diffa in Niger before dawn, two days after launching its first major attack on Friday in the area bordering Nigeria, witnesses quoted by AFP said.
The cause of the deadly blast in Diffa was not immediately known, with some sources describing it as a suicide attack while others referred to it as a bomb or a mortar shell.
Similarly members of the terror group were reported to have launched an attack on a military barracks in Gaida, Yobe State.
Although details on the barracks onslaught were sketchy at press time yesterday, sources said they could hear the heavy exchange of gunfire between the terrorists and Nigerian soldiers attempting to defend the military facility.
However, in a bid to stem the attacks in North-eastern Nigeria and neighbouring countries, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroun and Benin Republic at the weekend pledged to deploy 8,700 troops, police and civilians as part of a regional effort to fight Boko Haram terrorists.
“The representatives of Benin, Cameroun, Niger, Nigeria and Chad have announced contributions totalling 8,700 military personnel, police and civilians,” the countries said in a statement after a meeting in Cameroun’s capital, Yaounde.
The announcement came out of a three-day summit focused on organising the force that will battle the Islamist militants, who are engaged in a worsening six-year insurgency centred in Northeastern Nigeria.
However, it may be some time before the multinational effort goes into action, as nations will continue in coming days to thrash out the details of each government’s contribution as well as the budget.
Country representatives at the summit agreed to launch a mission to “foster a safe and secure environment in the impacted regions” and tackle an insurgency that has killed at least 13,000 people and pushed more than a million from their homes since 2009, reported the AFP.
African Union leaders will submit the plan for the force crafted by Western and African experts to the UN Security Council for approval.
Boko Haram attacks have increasingly spilled over from Nigeria into neighbouring nations.
Their first major assault in Niger on Friday triggered a forcible response from Chadian and Nigerien troops.
Niger’s defence minister reported that 109 of the Islamists were killed in the fighting, along with four soldiers and a civilian. Seventeen other troops were wounded.
The United States said it condemned the attack in the “strongest possible terms” and pledged support for regional forces.
“This unchecked killing must stop,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “We continue to provide support to governments in the region, including through intelligence sharing, and are increasing our support for these efforts.”
US intelligence officials said Friday that while Boko Haram is flush with cash and weapons after a string of battlefield advances, the terrorists could face a tougher fight with Nigeria’s neighbours.
The military intervention of neighbouring powers could potentially be a “game changer in a positive way,” one intelligence official said.
Meanwhile, Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai at the weekend called for global support to help release more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, as they marked 300 days as hostages.
“As we mark this tragic 300th day of captivity for hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, I call on people everywhere to join me in demanding urgent action to free these heroic girls,” she said.
Boko Haram terrorists seized 276 teenagers from the Government Secondary School in the remote town of Chibok, Borno State on the evening of April 14 last year.
Fifty-seven managed to escape but 219 are still being held, despite military claims that they had been located but that a rescue operation was too fraught with danger to be conducted.
The girls’ abduction and subsequent claims from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau that they have been forcibly converted to Islam or married off sparked global outrage.
The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls trended on social media and saw prominent figures, including US First Lady Michelle Obama, tweet their support, as well as global street protests.
Malala, 17, who was shot by the Pakistani Taliban for defying threats about her attending school, visited Nigeria in July last year to urge President Goodluck Jonathan to take action.
Jonathan has been widely criticised for what has been seen as a lacklustre response to the crisis and for failing to end the deadly, six-year insurgency.
Malala at the weekend said the government in Abuja and the international community “can and must do much more to resolve this crisis and change their weak response to date”.
“If these girls were the children of politically or financially powerful parents, much more would be done to free them,” the children’s rights campaigner added in a statement.
“But they come from an impoverished area of North-east Nigeria and sadly, little has changed since they were kidnapped,” she said.
Malala said politicians who secure a win at the polls should commit to making the Chibok girls’ release and the education of all Nigerian children, a priority in their first 100 days in office.
“Let’s end this horrible saga now. Leaders must make sure the #BringBackOurGirls effort results in a real outcome: the return of the Chibok girls,” she added.