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AFRICA NEWS
Boko Haram in fresh attack as region meets on strategy
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) May 17, 2014


France offers China help with by Boko Haram hostages
Beijing (AFP) May 18, 2014 - France's foreign minister offered China his country's help on Sunday in locating 10 workers feared kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, as African leaders joined forces to fight the terrorist group.

"We have already told our Chinese friends that we were at their disposal in helping them find their citizens," Laurent Fabius said on a visit to the Chinese capital, where he will meet Prime Minister Li Keqiang on Monday.

The Chinese road workers were apparently taken from their camp in a night-time attack in northern Cameroon on Friday night. They were likely taken back across the border into Nigeria, a police source said Sunday.

Fabius noted the attack took place as French President Francois Hollande convened heads of state to decide how to curb the havoc Boko Haram terrorists have wreaked in their base of Nigeria and in neighbouring countries.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and his counterparts from Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger approved an action plan on Saturday to combat the Islamist group blamed for 2,000 deaths this year as well as last month's abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from northeastern Nigeria.

"We are here to declare war on Boko Haram," Cameroon President Paul Biya said.

The agreement involves the coordination of surveillance efforts aimed at finding the schoolgirls, and the sharing of intelligence and joint efforts to secure the porous borders in the region.

In the longer term, the countries agreed to forge a regional counter-terrorism strategy under the auspices of the existing but barely active Lake Chad Basin Commission, with technical expertise and training support from Britain, France, the European Union and the United States.

Boko Haram kill soldier, 10 Chinese missing in Cameroon: police
Yaounde (AFP) May 17, 2014 - A Cameroonian soldier was killed and 10 Chinese nationals were feared kidnapped after an overnight attack in northern Cameroon believed to have been carried out by Boko Haram militants from Nigeria, police said Saturday.

"Boko Haram Islamists attacked a camp (of road workers)... Ten Chinese cannot be found since the attack. We think they have probably been kidnapped," a local police chief said on condition of anonymity.

One Cameroonian soldier was killed, said the source, correcting an earlier statement that said a Chinese national died in the attack.

The cross-border attack comes as Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was in Paris for a meeting with the leaders of neighbouring states on forging a regional strategy against the Islamist group.

A source close to the Chinese embassy in Yaounde spoke of "10 Chinese missing" and "one wounded".

"Cameroonian soldiers retaliated and the fighting lasted until 3:00 am (0200 GMT)," the officer said.

"The Boko Haram militants were heavily armed, they came in five vehicles," an official in Waza, near the site of the attack in a northern Cameroonian region near the Nigerian border, told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said the camp where the Chinese road workers stayed was usually guarded by soldiers from Cameroon's elite Rapid Intervention Battalion.

"Their numbers were thinner these past few days because many of them had gone down to Yaounde" for the traditional military parade marking National Day on May 20, the official said.

The police officer said the militants also attacked the police post in Waza overnight and raided its armoury.

Boko Haram gunmen killed a Chinese worker and kidnapped 10 others overnight in Cameroon, piling more pressure on leaders meeting in Paris on Saturday to thrash out a tougher strategy against the Nigerian Islamists.

Militants stormed an encampment used by Chinese road workers late on Friday in a region of northern Cameroon just across the border from the strongholds where they sparked global outrage by abducting more than 200 schoolgirls last month.

"The Boko Haram militants were heavily armed, they came in five vehicles," an official in Waza, a town near the site of the attack, told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said the camp where the Chinese road workers stayed was usually guarded by soldiers from Cameroon's elite Rapid Intervention Battalion, but many of the troops were in Yaounde for a military parade ahead of National Day on May 20.

"Cameroonian soldiers retaliated and the fighting lasted until 3:00 am (0200 GMT)," said a local police chief, who said the militants also raided the police armoury in Waza overnight.

He said one Chinese worker was killed and 10 others had been missing since the attack and were believed kidnapped by the Boko Haram gunmen.

A source close to the Chinese embassy in the Cameroonian capital Yaounde spoke of 10 missing and one wounded but would not confirm or deny whether one had been killed.

- More cooperation -

News of the latest attack came as west African and European leaders gathered for a special meeting in Paris aimed at ramping up action against the increasingly regional threat posed by Boko Haram.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was expected to face pressure to cooperate much more closely with Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin at the half-day summit.

A long-running territorial dispute has soured relations between Nigeria and Cameroon, hampering any steps towards joint action against the militants.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters just before the summit that regional countries, backed by Western powers such as Britain, the United States and the European Union, would have to forge a "strategy to defeat Boko Haram more broadly."

The group, which is waging a deadly campaign to create an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria, has achieved a new level of notoriety since it seized the girls a month ago.

"This is one sickening and terrible incident but they continue almost every day to commit terrorist acts and atrocities," Hague said.

"There are many borders here and they are porous. This is very relevant to finding the schoolgirls. We want to see the countries in the region working together in creating an intelligence fusion cell," Hague said.

"Nigerian security forces have not been well structured" to deal with the threat posed by Boko Haram, he added.

French President Francois Hollande discussed the conference and the hunt for the girls with US President Barack Obama in a phone call on Friday, the White House said.

Among the resources already put at Nigeria's disposal have been US drones and surveillance aircraft but further Western military involvement is not on the agenda, officials say.

Instead, the emphasis is on sharing intelligence and knowledge about dealing with such groups.

France has particular experience in that area, having recently secured the release of a French family that was kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram fighters in Cameroon and then held in Nigeria for two months.

- French involvement -

France has troops deployed on peacekeeping duty in the Central African Republic and in Mali, where it sent a force last year to combat Al Qaeda-linked militants who had seized control of much of the north of the country.

Although the French believe that the intervention in Mali inflicted significant damage on groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), military planners remain concerned about the implications of potential alliances being forged between militants in across the deeply unstable region.

In terms of concrete help for Nigeria's anti-terrorism efforts, Paris has signalled that it could put Rafale fighter planes and drones it has based in the region at the disposal of Jonathan's government for surveillance activities.

The Nigerian leader is under pressure to appear proactive over the abduction of the girls after widespread criticism over his government's inaction, including his decision to cancel a visit to the girls' hometown of Chibok that had been scheduled for Friday.

The kidnapping of 276 girls on April 14 -- of which 223 are still missing -- has brought international attention to the insurgency, which has been raging since 2009 and has claimed over 2,000 lives this year alone.

burs/ach/er

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Nigerian military a tricky partner for West on hostage search
Lagos (AFP) May 16, 2014
Culture clashes and concerns over sovereignty will undermine efforts by foreign experts to help Nigeria's military find the schoolgirls held hostage by Boko Haram but cooperation can work, experts said on Friday. US military experts have been in Nigeria for less than a week and the Pentagon has already acknowledged strains in the partnership. "Nigeria can be an extremely challenging par ... read more


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