Niger has extended for three months the state of emergency in its southeastern Diffa region where the army has been battling Boko Haram militants since February, authorities announced Wednesday. “Boko Haram elements are there,” Daouda Malam Marthe, first vice president of parliament, said on state radio. “The prolongation of the state of emergency is a necessity.”
The emergency declaration, which parliament voted in favour of on Tuesday, also gives security forces additional powers including the ability to order searches of homes day or night. Niger, Chad and Cameroon have since February helped Nigerian troops push Boko Haram out of towns and territories the militants had captured in an effort to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria.
Niger’s Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou told the National Assembly that Boko Haram militants are still present in Diffa, which borders Nigeria. “They are in the bush and on Lake Chad,” Massaoudou said. “They only come out night.” Authorities declared the state of emergency and have extended it following the Islamists’ attacks against Niger.
Though the regional offensive against Boko Haram has weakened the group, it has still mounted bloody assaults in recent months. On April 25 the insurgents attacked a Niger military position on Lake Chad, which left 74 dead, including 32 civilians, and resulted in the disappearance of 32 other people. The six-year conflict against Boko Haram has claimed at least 15,000 lives and made more than 1.5 million people homeless.