Four West African states have launched a major offensive against Boko Haram jihadist group in Nigeria, the military said, yesterday.
Soldiers from Nigeria and the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger are targeting a Boko Haram faction led by Abubakar Shekau in the Sambisa Forest, and another led by Mamman Nur, on and around Lake Chad.
Both locations are in Borno State, northeast Nigeria.
According to the Nigerian military, scores of jihadists have been killed and hundreds of others have been forced to surrender in recent days.
Top brass in Abuja have claimed that Nur had been injured and one of his wives killed in an aerial bombardment.
Shekau was “a spent horse, waiting for his Waterloo,” army spokesman, Brigadier General Sani Usman, said on Monday.
Yesterday, he said the operation — codenamed “Deep Punch 2” — had been making “tremendous progress.”
But he said four soldiers had “paid the supreme price” and nine others were wounded by a suicide car bomb attack against a military vehicle near Shekau’s camp on Monday.
Separate senior military and civilian militia sources spoken to by AFP gave a higher death toll of 10.
Two Cameroon security sources, meanwhile, said two of its troops had been killed in the Sambisa Forest, although it was not clear if they were among those mentioned by Usman.
Boko Haram has been fighting to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria since 2009. The violence has killed at least 20,000 and displaced more than 2.6 million.
In 2015, the four neighbours joined forces with Nigeria’s tiny western neighbour, Benin, to set up a Multi-National Joint Task Force, designed seize back territory lost to the jihadists.
President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military general who is expected to seek a second term next year, was elected in 2015 on a promise to defeat the insurgents.
He and military commanders have repeatedly insisted the Islamic State group affiliate is a spent force but regular attacks still occur in the remote region.
The Nur faction, which goes by the name Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), last Friday claimed a late December raid on a Nigerian military base that killed nine soldiers.