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Chad, Niger Forces Retake Nigerian Town From Boko Haram


Chadian troops participate in the closing ceremony of operation Flintlock exercises in an army base in N'djamena, Chad, March 9, 2015.
Chadian troops participate in the closing ceremony of operation Flintlock exercises in an army base in N'djamena, Chad, March 9, 2015.

Soldiers from Chad and Niger have retaken the northeastern Nigerian town of Damasak from Boko Haram militants.

The capture of the town on the Niger-Nigeria border is the first reported success from a joint offensive against the militants that Chad and Niger launched in Nigeria's Borno state in recent days.

A senior Nigerian military official said Monday that the joint military offensive targeting Boko Haram militants is "consistent with the understanding that there should be no hiding place for terrorists."

Speaking to VOA on Monday, military spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade indicated the cross-border offensive has Nigeria's support.

"We believe that whatever is going on out there is complementary and in concert with what we are doing here to flush out the terrorists," Olukolade said.


Chadian sources said Monday about 10 Chadian soldiers were killed and 20 others wounded in fighting to free the town. Various sources said at least 200 Boko Haram fighters were killed, but there was no independent confirmation of the toll.

Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin have recently mobilized forces to help Nigeria defeat the Islamist group after it seized territory and began mounting cross-border attacks.

Much of the military focus has been on Chad's well-trained army, which has experience fighting al-Qaida-linked extremists in Mali alongside French forces.

The new push began a day after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau declared allegiance to the Islamic State group, another group that follows a strict interpretation of the Quran.

Olukolade said that development will not affect the Nigerian military's efforts to counter Boko Haram.

"That will have no direct meaning for us," he said. "Our operation to force them out of Nigeria will continue."

Election March 28

The military is trying to secure Boko Haram-controlled areas in order to allow the government to hold presidential and parliamentary elections, which were originally scheduled for last month but postponed until March 28.

On Saturday, more than 50 people were killed and at least 140 others wounded by four explosions in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri. There has been no claim of responsibility, but suspicion fell on Boko Haram, which has carried out dozens of similar bombings across northeastern Nigeria.

Tens of thousands of Nigerians have taken refuge in Cameroon, among 1.6 million people driven from their homes by the insurgency.

International concern has increased along with the casualties. About 10,000 people were killed in Boko Haram's uprising last year, compared to about 2,000 in the four previous years, according to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations.

Some material for this report came from Reuters, AP and AFP.

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