Niger vows to 'cleanse' Islamist militants infested border area

AFP , Saturday 3 Jul 2021

Boko Haram has gained a foothold in at least two villages, Bazoum said at the end of a three-day tour of the southeastern region that has been plagued by jihadist violence since 2015

Boko Haram militants (File photo: Reuters)
Boko Haram militants (File photo: Reuters)

Niger President Mohamed Bazoum on Saturday pledged to "cleanse" villages of Islamist militants that have expanded their reach in the southeast of the country near Nigeria.

Boko Haram has gained a foothold in at least two villages, Bazoum said at the end of a three-day tour of the southeastern region that has been plagued by jihadist violence since 2015.

He described another village as being "infested", while Boko Haram are able to cut off roads from their bases in other settlements, he said.

"We will give instructions for these villages to be cleansed," he said, adding that joint operations with Nigeria will clear out jihadists operating on both sides of the border.

Boko Harem, Islamic State and groups affiliated to Al-Qaeda are a growing menace for a number of countries across the continent -- sparking protests as people demand leaders restore security.

Bazoum gave no start date for the military operations.

"On the military level, we have a good balance of power... but the enemy is reorganising itself, and has a lot of capacity," he said, adding the government would remain "very vigilant".

Boko Haram have widened their area of operations, Bazoum said.

The jihadists are operating "increasingly to the west and south" of the Diffa region, far from their usual range around Lake Chad, a security source confirmed to AFP.

In the first six months of the year, there were nine attacks on Niger's security forces in two towns that are not bordering the lake, including the regional capital Diffa, according to the United Nations.

The Diffa region is home to 300,000 Nigerian and displaced refugees fleeing jihadist violence since 2015, according to the UN.

Niger is also fighting jihadists from the Sahel in its western region, including the Islamic State in the Great Sahara.

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