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Boosting Regional Cooperation Against Boko Haram


French President Francois Hollande, third right, shakes hands with Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan, third left as other African presidents look on.

Nigeria is teaming with four neighboring nations to share intelligence and strengthen military cooperation to combat the threat posed to all of them by the militant terrorist group Boko Haram.

Nigeria is teaming with four neighboring nations to share intelligence and strengthen military cooperation to combat the threat posed to all of them by the militant terrorist group Boko Haram.

The United States hails the agreement, struck at a summit meeting in Paris organized by French President Francois Hollande, as an important recognition that terrorism knows no borders and that nations working together will improve their chances in defeating a common foe.

Under the pact, Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin will develop a regional action plan for intelligence coordination, information and resource sharing, and border surveillance. Although Boko Haram operates primarily in northern Nigeria, the group has taken advantage of the region’s porous and lightly guarded borders to conduct cross-border attacks and seek safe havens outside Nigeria.

This trend was brought home on the eve of the conference when the group attacked a hydroelectric project being developed by a Chinese company in northern Cameroon. One Cameroonian soldier was killed and several Chinese workers are missing.

Since 2009, when it began a campaign to overthrow the government of Nigeria and replace it with a regime based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law, Boko Haram has wreaked death and destruction across much of northern Nigeria. The group’s insurgency has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

At first targeting police and other government officials and facilities, Boko Haram has broadened its attacks to include churches, mosques, schools, media outlets, markets, and other civilian sites, leaving a trail of blood wherever it strikes. Last month, the group drew international outrage by kidnapping more than 200 young school girls, offering them as hostages for Boko Haram fighters being held by the government, and threatening to sell them.

Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman represented the United States at the summit in Paris and praised President Hollande for organizing it. Our government is engaged in the efforts to help safely recover the girls and improve regional security. We are providing surveillance aircraft and an interagency team of civilian, military and law enforcement experts to advise Nigerian officials. Group action is critical not only to contain the threat and bring the captured girls home, but also to prevent these kinds of acts in the future and to promote development to address the underlying causes of violent extremism.
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