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Nigeria, Cameroon Seek to Repair Ties After Attack in Disputed Bakassi

Representatives of Nigeria and Cameroon say the recent killing of 21 Cameroonian soldiers in the disputed Bakassi peninsula will not damage ties. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports officials are pressing for a joint investigation.

Both countries have sought to play down the impact on bilateral relations of Tuesday's deadly attack .

Nigeria, from whose territory the attackers reportedly came, not only refuted complicity but invited Cameroon to join in the investigation.

Nigerian and Cameroonian officials acknowledged at a meeting in Abuja that a joint probe will clear the air and restore confidence to the process leading to the handover of Bakassi to Cameroon next year.

Cameroon says the attackers were not operating under Nigerian authority. But it says it would want its western neighbor to improve security in the area.

Suspicion has so far focused on militants from nearby Niger Delta, Nigeria's volatile oil-rich territory.

Peter Egom, a senior researcher at the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs, says bilateral relations have not suffered as a result of the incident.

"I don't think what has happened will lead to any misunderstanding between us and them. Why are we killing them? Why are they killing us? There is no reason. There is somebody, a spoiler that can instigate this kind of attack. It is not somebody who wishes Nigeria and Cameroon well," said Egom. "It is a spoiler somewhere who says, let me do this and see what will come out of it."

Nigeria agreed to cede Bakassi to Cameroon last year in line with an international court judgment and has started a planned handover of the territory to be completed by June next year.

Nigeria and its eastern neighbor have long disputed the ownership of Bakassi, a territory rich in oil and fish resources.

The dispute almost brought the two countries to war in 1981.