African leaders vow to wage 'total war' on Boko Haram
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African leaders on Saturday described Boko Haram as an "al Qaeda operation" and promised to wage "total war" on the Islamic extremist group after a summit meeting in Paris.
The leaders of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin as well as the French president and US and British officials met for talks in the Elysée Palace to discuss strategy for fighting Boko Haram and freeing at least 276 girls it is holding.
After the meeting, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told the media, “Boko Haram is no longer a local terrorist group, it is operating clearly as an al Qaeda operation, it is an al Qaeda of Western and Central Africa."
Jonathan said his government was “totally committed to finding these girls.”
Boko Haram fighters move freely across the border into Cameroon, where a Chinese engineering firm's camp came under attack late Friday. Chinese state media reported that 10 people were missing.
Paul Biya, the Cameroon president told the press conference in Paris on Saturday: 'We are here to declare war on Boko Haram'
Chad's President Idriss Déby said countries neighbouring Nigeria were ready to wage war against Islamist militant group Boko Haram as fears mount the group will spread beyond its borders and destabilise the wider region.
"There is determination to tackle this situation head on...to launch a war, a total war on Boko Haram," he said.
President François Hollande said Boko Haram was a “threat to the region, a threat to Africa and, therefore, a threat to Europe.
Hollande said the plan aimed for “better understanding, better surveillance and better intervention.”
Boko Haram has offered to exchange the 276 girls who remain captive with the Nigerian government for jailed insurgents, and threatened otherwise to sell them into slavery.
"Boko Haram's strategy, contrary to all civilisation, is to destabilize Nigeria and to destroy the fundamental principles of human dignity,'' Hollande said earlier in the day. "More than 200 young girls threatened with slavery is the proof.''
Officials have said there will be no Western military operation. British officials say Jonathan, who has reluctantly accepted outside help, has ruled out swapping prisoners for the girls.
Signs are growing that some Nigerian troops are near mutiny, complaining they are overwhelmed and outgunned by Boko Haram. Soldiers have told The Associated Press that some in the ranks actually fight alongside the group. Last year, Jonathan said he suspected that Boko Haram members and sympathizers had infiltrated every level of his government and military, including the Cabinet.
The US, France and Britain have all sent experts to help find the girls, but French and American officials have expressed concerns about how any information might be used.
The north-eastern region where the girls were kidnapped has suffered five years of increasingly deadly assaults by Boko Haram. Thousands have been killed, including more than 1,500 civilians this year.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)
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