Boko Haram crisis: Chad sends troops to help Cameroon

Chadian soldiers Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Chadian army is to take a more active role in confronting Boko Haram

Cameroon says Chad will send a large contingent of troops to help it fight incursions from the Nigeria-based militant Islamist group, Boko Haram.

The announcement came a day after Chad said it would "actively support" its neighbour against the militants.

No detail was given about how many troops would be sent, or when.

On Tuesday, Cameroon said it had killed 143 Boko Haram militants who attacked one of its army bases at Kolofata near the Nigerian border.

It said one soldier had died during the assault, which led to a gun battle lasting five hours.

It was the first major attack on Cameroon since Boko Haram threatened the country's leader in a video posted online earlier this month.

The militant Islamist group has seized control of towns and villages in north-east Nigeria in a six-year insurgency.

President visits

A French-led initiative has called for Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad to contribute 700 troops each to a multinational force against Boko Haram, but no country has taken steps to implement the plan.

Chad previously had some troops based in Baga, a Nigerian town seized by Boko Haram earlier this month, but they had been withdrawn before the attack.

Niger and Cameroon have both criticised Nigeria for failing to do more to confront Boko Haram.

Cameroon under pressure from Boko Haram

Analysis: By Bashir Sa'ad Abdullahi, BBC Africa, Abuja

The decision by Chad to send troops is a sign of progress in a region where there has been little cooperation in the battle against Boko Haram.

Under French pressure, the countries immediately threatened by the militants agreed last year to strengthen the multinational force in Baga.

But just months later Chad and Niger instead withdrew their troops entirely.

It appears that Nigeria's neighbours are suspicious of its inability to defeat Boko Haram.

Some believe that Chad is only now waking up to the reality that unless it takes action, Boko Haram may consume it too.

Correspondents say Nigerian politicians appear more focused on campaigning for elections next month than on security issues, and senior figures rarely comment on the insurgency in the north-east.

On Thursday, President Goodluck Jonathan made an unannounced visit to the area, his first for nearly two years.

He told displaced people in the biggest city of Borno state, Maiduguri, that he was "working very hard" to help them return to their homes.

Mr Jonathan's visit came as the human rights group Amnesty International released satellite images of towns attacked by Boko Haram, suggesting widespread destruction and a high death toll.

The pictures showed about 3,700 structures damaged or destroyed in Baga and neighbouring Doron Baga last week, the rights group said.

Amnesty's before-and-after satellite images were taken on 2 and 7 January.

Nigeria's government has disputed reports that as many as 2,000 people were killed in and around Baga, putting the number of dead at no more than 150.

Boko Haram at a glance

Image copyright AFP
  • Founded in 2002
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education - Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria - also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja

Who are Boko Haram?

Why Nigeria has not defeated Boko Haram