Boko Haram launches first attack in Niger

Chadian soldiers patrol near the Cameroonian town of Fotokol, on the border with Nigeria, on 5 February 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The border between Nigeria and Cameroon is under threat from Boko Haram

The Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram has attacked a town in Niger for the first time, witnesses say.

Niger's government said it killed more than 100 of the group's fighters as it repulsed the attack on the border town of Bosso.

The group reportedly killed at least 70 people in an attack on the town of Fotokol in Cameroon on Wednesday.

The Boko Haram insurgency has left thousands dead and displaced more than a million over the past six years.

The militants control a large stretch of land in north-eastern Nigeria.

Its neighbours have promised to send troops to help it fight the militants, who are now attacking those countries.

On Friday, US intelligence officials said that they believed Boko Haram had up to 6,000 "hardcore" fighters, according to Reuters news agency.

Despite this, they did not believe the group posed a major threat to Nigeria's oilfields.

The unnamed officials told Reuters that the militants were thought to be still holding the 300 schoolgirls that they kidnapped last year and had dispersed them to multiple locations.

Islamists pushed back

Boko Haram militants reportedly attacked Bosso early in the morning with heavy weapons, causing residents to flee or hide indoors.

One resident told AFP news agency: "We can hear the sound of weapons all around the town, often very near our windows.

"There is the noise of heavy weapons and of light arms, making our houses shake."

Niger later said it had successfully pushed back the militants, killing 109. The country's defence minister, Mahamadou Karidjo, said four soldiers and a civilian were also killed.

Bosso lies just across the border from Nigeria's Borno state, one of the areas worst affected by Islamist violence.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Soldiers from Chad and Cameroon have been sent to Nigeria's border to fight against Boko Haram
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Militants are now crossing the border to attack Nigeria's neighbouring countries
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The group reportedly killed at least 70 people in an attack on the town of Fotokol in Cameroon on Wednesday

The town is home to thousands of Nigerian refugees who have fled Boko Haram.

The militant group, which has sworn allegiance to Islamic State and desires its own caliphate in Nigeria, has killed thousands and displaced millions in the country's north-east.

It is now threatening Chad, Niger and Cameroon, prompting Chad to deploy 2,500 troops to border areas including Bosso.

Chad sent troops to Cameroon last month to join the offensive against Boko Haram, following widespread criticism of the Nigerian army's failure to curb the insurgency.

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