Hundreds of suspected Boko Haram fighters have been killed since January 31 as Chadian forces, backed by Nigerian and French aircraft, overran the jihadist group’s strongholds in northern Nigeria. The latest outbreak of fighting occurred after members of Boko Haram ambushed Chadian forces who had been staging in nearby Cameroon.
The Chadian military has liberated the Nigerian towns of Baga, Dikwa, Malam Fatori, Damasak, Ngala and parts of Bama in the past four days, according to a spokesman for a Nigerian militia group and reported by Bloomberg.
Details of the fighting were also reported by the Globe and Mail:
“Chad’s army said its troops were attacked Tuesday [February 3] in Cameroon by Boko Haram…
‘Our valiant forces responded vigorously, a chase was immediately instituted all the way to their base at Gamboru and Ngala [in Nigeria], where they were completely wiped out,’ spokesman Col. Azem Bermendoa said on national television Tuesday night.
More than 200 extremists and nine Chadian troops were killed, he said.
On Wednesday, hundreds of Boko Haram fighters driven out of Gamboru crossed the border and attacked Chadian military posts in Fotokol, in far northern Cameroon, residents and military officers said.
This week’s military actions mark the biggest offensive against Boko Haram in its more than five-year history.
Cameroonian forces are assisting Chadian forces in countering the Boko Haram assault in Fotokol, and fighting remains ongoing. In Nigeria, Chadian and Nigerian attack jets and helicopters continue to assault jihadist positions in and around the strategic town of Gamboru, which Boko Haram has occupied since last year.
In late January, Chadian forces countered a Boko Haram ambush near Malam Fatori and reportedly killed 120 insurgents, according to regional reports. Three Chadian soldiers were also reported killed in the fighting.
The African Union (AU) has authorized a Multinational Joint Task Force [MJTF] of 7,500 troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin to wage war against Boko Haram, although further meetings this week are expected to refine the MJTF’s mandate. Currently, there are approximately 2,000 Chadian personnel operating in and around the Boko Haram-occupied border area of northern Nigeria. France, a key ally of Niger, Chad and Cameroon, has also announced its participation in the offensive against the jihadist group, and confirmed supplying surveillance aircraft to assist the Chadian assault against Gamboru.
More details were provided by Newsweek:
Despite French president Francois Hollande’s previous claims that French warplanes were operating in Nigerian airspace, French officials have since confirmed that French operations are limited to the airspace of Nigeria’s neighbours, Chad and Niger.
“Our air force is carrying out reconnaissance missions, but not over Nigeria,” a French defence ministry source told Reuters today. “Our support is limited to neighbouring countries such as Chad and Niger,” the source added.
Fighting is expected to increase as the MJTF eventually pierces deeper into Boko Haram occupied territories in northern Nigeria.