The African Union has backed a plan that calls for the creation of a regional five-nation force of 7,500 troops to fight Boko Haram militants. The plan was announced as Chadian troops drove fighters from the Islamist extremist group from a Nigerian border town Friday, marking the first such action by foreign troops against Boko Haram on Nigerian soil, according to the Associated Press.
“Terrorism, in particular the brutality of Boko Haram against our people, is a threat to our collective safety, security and development,” said the bloc’s commission chair, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Friday, in a speech opening the AU’s two-day summit in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, reported Sky News. “This has now spread to the region beyond Nigeria and requires a collective, effective and decisive response.”
Since the start of its six-year insurgency in Nigeria, Boko Haram has seized a significant swath of territory in the northeast of the country and has increasingly begun cross-border incursions into neighboring states. Four of Nigeria’s neighbors-- Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin-- have signed on to contribute troops to the new task force, according to the BBC. The multinational force is set to have an initial mandate of one year and the plan is now expected to be submitted to the United Nations Security Council for approval.
Nigeria’s government has maintained its capability of tackling the threat of Boko Haram and has said it is doing all it can to fight the insurgency. But these claims have been undercut by the widening scale of the militant group’s attacks, including the recent incursion on the northern town of Baga that left an estimated 2,000 people dead, according to Amnesty International.
It is not clear whether the Chadian advance on the group Friday, which captured the border town of Malamfatori from the militants, was approved by Nigerian authorities, said the BBC. The Nigerian military said that the town was “within the area of operation covered by [Multinational Joint Task Force] of which Chad has always been a part.”