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May 17, 2014

In Paris, Calls for Unified Strike on Boko Haram

by VOA News

French President Francois Hollande says the Nigeria-based Boko Haram militant group has become a threat to all of West and Central Africa and a "comprehensive plan" must be established to fight it.

Hollande commented at a Saturday news conference in Paris following a meeting with his counterparts from Nigeria and its neighboring countries.

The meeting took place in the wake of the Islamist militant groups' kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian school girls last month. Nigerian officials say 276 of the girls are still missing.

'Comprehensive plan' needed
  ​​The French president said Boko Haram was an al-Qaida-linked group. He told the regional African leaders a comprehensive plan must be put in place to exchange information and coordinate activities.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan agreed, saying "Boko Haram is no longer a local terrorist group." He said the militants were operating as "an al-Qaida of West Africa."

Jonathan said his government was committed to finding the missing school girls. He said 20,000 Nigerian troops had been deployed to northern Nigeria, where the abductions occurred.

Cameroon attack

Just hours before the leaders gathered in Paris, suspected Boko Haram militants launched an attack in a border region of neighboring Cameroon.  

Local officials say militants raided a Chinese workers' camp in the town of Waza, killing one person.

Investigators say 10 Chinese workers are missing and are believed to have been kidnapped by the suspected militants.

A witness told VOA about 200 gunmen arrived in a convoy of vehicles in Waza and began shooting.

Representatives from the EU, Britain and other Western powers attended the meeting in Paris.

UK ready to help

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his country is ready to offer Nigeria additional assistance. He said Britain had offered to embed military advisers with Nigerian military units.

Boko Haram has said it wants to establish a strict Islamist state in northern Nigeria.  The militant group has been blamed for thousands of deaths from bombings and shooting over the past five years.

The militants had recently released a video showing about 100 of the kidnapped girls who were seen wearing hijabs and reciting Islamic prayers. Most of the girls who were kidnapped were Christians.