Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants attack Cameroon and Niger
Yaounde, Cameroon ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – The Nigeria-based Islamic extremist group Boko Haram escalated its attacks in neighboring countries Monday, as a car bomb exploded in one Niger town repeatedly targeted by the militants and residents said other fighters in Cameroon had abducted 20 people aboard a public bus.
A huge explosion rang out in the Niger town of Diffa about 3 p.m. Monday, according to Hassan Maina, who said casualties were seen being taken to a hospital. There was not immediately a toll for the attack, which was near a customs office.
Boko Haram is well known for car bombings and suicide bombings within Nigeria during its five-year insurgency, but the group had not carried out such assaults within neighboring countries.
Monday’s bombing comes as Niger’s lawmakers are due to vote on a plan to send troops to help Nigeria rout the terror group blamed for 10,000 deaths over the past year. Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin have pledged to help Nigeria create a force with as many as 8,750 troops to fight Boko Haram.
As a result, Boko Haram has vowed to attack those countries promising to aid Nigeria. On Monday, residents in northern Cameroon said three towns there had been targeted by Boko Haram.
In northern Cameroon, the fighters seized a bus with 20 people aboard in Koza late Sunday and then drove it back toward the Nigerian border, some 11 miles (18 kilometers) away, resident Bouba Kaina told The Associated Press by telephone.
Early Monday, another Cameroonian town, Kolofata, was attacked by extremists who looted food and livestock. The town had recently been retaken by Chadian troops who have been helping Cameroon fight Boko Haram.
Diffa, the Niger town where the bombing went off Monday, already had seen three previous attacks since Friday by the group including an overnight gunbattle that lasted until Monday morning.
“Gunfire and heavy explosions were heard throughout the night until the early hours of the morning,” said Adam Boukar, who runs a radio station in Diffa.
Nigeria’s Islamic extremists Boko Haram pushed their conflict further into neighboring countries with attacks on Cameroon and Niger.
Nearly a year ago Boko Haram abducted more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who remain missing.
To mobilize a regional response to Boko Haram, officials from neighboring countries and the African Union met in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, on Saturday and pledged to create a force of as many as 8,750 troops with soldiers from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin. Chad is to command the force from its capital, N’Djamena. Officials said the force could be deployed as early as next month, though funding issues could delay its launch.
Boko Haram scoffed at the regional effort.
Boko Haram has scoffed at the regional effort, most recently in a video posted on YouTube by the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.
“You are sending 7,000 of your soldiers. Why don’t you send 7 million? The 7,000 is little and we can kill them step by step … Your soldiers are infidels and God’s soldiers are victorious,” he said.
Shekau also urged the people of Chad and Cameroon to renounce democracy to be true Muslims. He ridiculed the force planned by “you tyrants of Africa” and told Chad’s President Idriss Deby that he will “burn in hellfire.”
Four nations to deploy 8,700-strong force to fight Boko Haram
Nigeria and its four neighbouring nations at the weekend pledged to deploy 8,700 troops, police and civilians as part of a regional effort to fight Boko Haram militants.
“The representatives of Benin, Cameroon, 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 Cameroon’s capital Yaounde.
The announcement came out of a three-day summit focused on organising the force that will battle the militants.
However, it may be some time before the multi-national 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.
African Union leaders will submit the plan for the force crafted by Western and African experts to the United Nations Security Council for approval. Boko Haram’s attacks have increasingly spilled over from Nigeria into neighbouring nations.
Nigeria Postpones Elections, Saying Security Is a Concern
Nigeria’s election agency on Saturday night put off a closely contested presidential election after weeks of pressure to postpone it from the ruling party, which analysts say was facing potential defeat for the first time in more than 15 years.
The move is sure to anger the opposition, which has been arguing against a postponement, and inflame its supporters in a volatile electoral environment.
The election, originally scheduled for next Saturday, will now be held March 28, the election agency head told a news conference in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, late Saturday night. The elections official, Attahiru Jega, after days of what were reportedly heated meetings with the government, cited “security” concerns for the delay. He said that Nigeria’s top military men — themselves close to the government — refused to ensure that security would be “guaranteed” if the vote went ahead as scheduled.
The country’s northeast has been in the grip of an Islamist insurgency waged by the Boko Haram terrorist group for nearly six years, with the country’s military unable to contain it. It was not immediately clear how that standoff might change in the coming six weeks.
But days ago the national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who is close to President Goodluck Jonathan, made it equally clear that he favored putting off the vote.
Darren Kew, a Nigeria expert at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said: “This is a sign of panic on the part of supporters of the president and the ruling party. The real reason behind it is the opposition is surging right now.”
Mr. Jega, the elections official, was presented with a “fait accompli” by the country’s generals, Mr. Kew said, when security for the election was “withdrawn,” adding that “most of the upper brass is very close to the presidency.”
In a statement, the opposition All Progressives’ Congress said that this is clearly a major setback for Nigerian democracy.
Mr. Jonathan, a Christian from the south, has faced sharp criticism for his failure to contain Boko Haram, for a series of large-scale corruption scandals involving the government and for a faltering economy battered by the falling price of oil.
He is running against a general who ruled the country as a military dictator in the early 1980s. The general, Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north, has promised to crush Boko Haram and bring corruption to heel: a campaign pledge previously enacted by him with brutal rigor in his previous stint as head of government 30 years ago.
In a country evenly divided between Muslims and Christians, the general is thought to have an electoral lock on the Muslim north, and solid chances in the mixed-religion middle and southwest. Mr. Jonathan is only sure of support in his native far south. But now, with an additional six weeks of campaigning and unlimited cash, his chances have sharply improved, analysts believe.
But electoral violence and pressure from the streets — an ever-present factor in a country where 2011 was considered a peaceful election, although nearly 900 were killed after Mr. Buhari was defeated — will almost certainly now figure in as well, analysts said.
Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement on Saturday saying that the United States was disappointed by the decision to postpone the election in Nigeria. “Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable,” he said, “And it is critical that the government not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process.”For more news and stories, join us on Facebook,Twitter , or contact us through our Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com