France to Increase Troops to Support Boko Haram Fight

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  • US lawmaker to discuss ISIS, insurgency threat with FG
  • Omeri: 36 towns recovered from sect, eight bombers arrested in Maiduguri

By Omololu Ogunmade, Adebiyi Adedapo in Abuja and Zacheaus Somorin in Lagos with agency report

In a move aimed at completely annihilating the terror group, Boko Haram, France has committed to increasing its West African counter-insurgency force to support regional forces fighting Boko Haram, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said yesterday.

France has headquartered its more than 3,000-strong Sahel counter-insurgency force, Barkhane, in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, some 50 km (30 miles) from the Nigerian border.

Until now, those troops have largely been tasked with tracking al Qaeda-linked militants spanning the Sahara from Mauritania in the west and southern Libya in the east.

“We will slightly increase the numbers on Barkhane,” Le Drian told reporters without giving specific details.

He said the troops would provide support to forces fighting around Lake Chad, where Boko Haram has in recent months increasingly threatened regional countries, according to Reuters.

Cameroun, Chad, Niger and Benin have mobilised forces this year to help Nigeria defeat Boko Haram after it seized territory and staged cross-border attacks.

“We do not intend to take part in the fighting,” Le Drian said.

Paris has, however, already sent about 40 military advisers to Niger’s southern border with Nigeria to help coordinate military action by the regional powers fighting Boko Haram and has been operating reconnaissance missions near the Nigerian border and sharing intelligence.

It is expected to reduce its 2,000 strong contingent in Central African Republic (CAR) to deploy more to Barkhane, defence and military sources have said.

France, which has the UN Security Council presidency in March, is also pushing for a resolution by early April that would back a 10,000-strong African force to fight Boko Haram, providing it crucial FINANCING to carry out operations.

In a related development, a United States Congressman, Stephen F. Lynch, who has arrived Nigeria, is expected to meet with United States security and counter-terrorism personnel in the US Embassy in Nigeria, as well as Nigerian leaders to review the embassy’s security following the recent bombings in Maiduguri and the pledge by Boko Haram to join forces with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS).

Congressman Lynch is a ranking Democrat on the National Security Subcommittee in US Congress and has been travelling as part of a congressional delegation led by Oversight Committee Chairman, Jason Chaffetz, and Congressman Steve Russell to South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

The delegation is continuing the committee’s nearly three year’s investigation of embassy and diplomatic security at high-risk overseas US State Department facilities in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the US Consulate and Classified Annex in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012.

According to a statement on the embassy’s website, Lynch was en route to Nigeria before the latest bombings occurred.

Lynch’s visit to Nigeria was originally to focus on embassy security and the plight of the over 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram almost one year ago.

“This is a critical time for Nigeria and this region,” Lynch said. “Nigeria’s national elections are scheduled in just over two weeks, while Boko Haram controls an area in the north about the size of New Jersey.”

“The bombings and other Boko Haram activities are sure to further destabilise some areas in the run up to the election. It’s a precarious situation,” he added.

He stated that the US had committed $40 million over three years for equipment and training assistance to Nigeria, Chad, and other African nations in their efforts to combat Boko Haram.

“US Special Forces are also training African counterterrorism troops. The situation can change quickly and we have to continue to find ways to collaborate with our African partners as they battle against regional terrorist organisations,” said Lynch.

Earlier, the congressional delegation visited embassies and consulate general offices in Johannesburg, South Africa, Maputo, Mozambique; and Harare, Zimbabwe in an effort to strengthen US capacity to prevent and withstand potential attacks against foreign service operations.

“Many of our embassies and consulates were established in the 1950s and 1960s, when the security profile was vastly different than it is now.

“Today, these facilities are targets and we need to adjust to the new reality and provide a more secure environment for our State Department employees,” added Lynch.

Also at a meeting yesterday with Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba and Senator Bukola Saraki, Lynch reiterated that the US had offered as much as $40 million to train Nigerian troops and to assist in the purchase of military equipment in Nigeria’s bid to end the Boko Haram insurgency.

According to him, the US Special Forces are also training African counter-terrorism troops with the mission to wipe out terrorism in the region.

Lynch told Ndoma-Egba and Saraki that he was in Nigeria to seek advice on how the US could be more helpful to the country on a number of issues, adding that the visit also presented a great opportunity to work with the country in the battle against Boko Haram.

Lynch said the US was concerned about the plight of over 200 Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram almost a year ago, adding that continuous bombings in this election season worries America.

He advocated the need for coordination in the fight against insurgency, observing that the first anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls is around the corner.

“Right now, we are using US and French Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) to show from an aerial view the activities of

Boko Haram and that information is given to the Nigerian armed forces so they can use that information to know the strength, the deployment and the strategy of Boko Haram.“I think that part of the recent victories of the last few weeks have been the result of that coordination between our technical support and the excellent military skills of the Nigerian forces,” he said.

Lynch also told the senators that Nigerians should not allow the activities of the extremist Boko Haram sect deny them of the right to vote on election days.

“My message to Nigeria is to go out and vote. I think it sends a strong signal to those who would try to take away your democracy. I was elected on September 11, 2001, the day we were attacked by Al Qaeda and we went forward with our election.

“Even though that was election day, even though we were attacked, I think it showed a commitment to democracy and you never want to have a democratic election cancelled because of what a few extremists might do.

“You want to make sure that your people have the opportunity to vote and exercise their rights,” he counselled.

In his response, Saraki said the visit underscored the level of interest that the world and notably the US have in Nigeria, expressing appreciation to the US for its support in the area of security and electoral process in Nigeria.

Ndoma-Egba said the fight against terrorism is a global affair, noting that the country would always welcome partnerships with global friends.

“The fight against terrorism is now a global one and we need connecting partnerships with everybody and Nigeria has always worked with the United States of America. So Congressman Stephen Lynch is here in pursuit of that partnership,” he said.

Meanwhile, the federal government said yesterday that 36 towns had been retaken from Boko Haram since the start of a four-nation military offensive, voicing hope that the operation could lead to the group’s “total defeat”.

National Information Centre (NIC) spokesman Mike Omeri was quoted by AFP as stating that four towns had fallen since last Friday, including three in Borno State and Buni Yadi, in neighbouring Yobe, where the insurgents slaughtered more than 40 students in February last year before seizing it in August.

Crucial “cooperation and alliances” have led to victories over the Islamist rebels, he said, thanking neighbouring Cameroun, Chad and Niger for cutting off “the supply lines of the terrorists”.

“It is hoped that the unfolding regional cooperation will hasten the total defeat and extermination of Boko Haram in Nigeria and the sub-region,” he added.

The fighting has displaced more than 1.5 million people in Nigeria but Omeri claimed that some were “now returning to their homesteads to settle back into normal life”.

He also said that there was no evidence to prove that agents of ISIS have any presence in Nigeria, adding that Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to the group was done out of frustration and a quest for support from the Islamic group.

Speaking on the efforts of the federal government to resettle internally displaced persons (IDPs), Omeri said government’s master plan for the North-east zone received a boost with the recent visit of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, to Chibok community.

He also revealed that the Civilian JTF arrested eight suspected bombers at Customs area of Maidiguri, the Borno State capital, yesterday.

“Latest reports from Borno State indicate that about eight people were arrested today (yesterday) around Customs Area in Maiduguri, Borno State by men of the Civilian JTF following the interrogation of two teenage suspected bombers who confessed that they were given the bomb by one Hassan Mai Doya of Customs Area to plant somewhere in Maiduguri metropolis. The suspects are now being interrogated by the security agents,” he said.

Thisday News – Culled from http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/appeal-court-stops-execution-of-soldiers-convicted-by-court-marshall/203973/

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