French President Francois Hollande (R) welcomes Nigerian
President Goodluck Jonathan as he arrives to attend the
African Security Summit at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
West African leaders have agreed to work together to wage
"total war" on Boko Haram, saying the Nigerian Islamist group
had become a regional al Qaeda that threatened all of them.
Nigeria's neighbours Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin, and
Western officials, met in Paris to flesh out a plan enabling
them for the first time to share intelligence, coordinate
action and monitor borders.
Although Boko Haram has been fighting for five years,
carrying out bombings and attacks on civilians and the
security forces, the kidnapping last month of more than 200
girls from a school in the northeast has focused world
attention on them.
"Boko Haram is no longer a local terrorist group, it is
operating clearly as an al Qaeda operation, it is an al Qaeda
of West Africa," Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told a
news conference in Paris following the meeting.
"We have shown our commitment for a regional approach.
Without West African countries coming together we will not be
able to crush these terrorists," he said.
Outrage over the mass abduction has prompted Nigerian
President Goodluck Jonathan - criticised at home and abroad
for his government's slow response - to accept U.S., British
and French intelligence help in the hunt for the girls.
British Foreign Minister William Hague, speaking before the
start of a meeting, said the Nigerian military was not
organised in a way to deal effectively with the group, and
offered military advisers to help structure them.
"There is determination to tackle this situation head on ...
to launch a war, a total war on Boko Haram," Chad's President
Idriss Deby said.
The countries agreed to launch coordinated patrols and rescue
operations, share intelligence, put in place a mechanism to
prevent weapons' smuggling and monitor borders.
Intelligence services and army heads would also meet soon to
come up with a region-wide strategy to fight terrorism.
"The threat is serious and dangerous for the region, Africa
and Europe," French President Francois Hollande said,
although no concrete operational measures were announced.
With 6,000 French troops operating in either Mali to the
northwest or the Central African Republic to the east, Paris
has an interest in preventing a deterioration in Nigeria's
Like its Western allies, Paris has ruled out any military
operation saying it was primarily for Nigeria to take the
lead, although Hollande said Rafale fighter jets based in the
Chadian capital N'Djamena - just 60 km from the Nigerian
border - would be used for reconnaissance missions.
Paris fears Boko Haram could spread north into the Sahel and
beyond Cameroon into the Central African Republic. Boko Haram
has already targeted French interests in Nigeria, kidnapping
a French family in northern Cameroon last year.
Suspected Boko Haram rebels also attacked a Chinese work site
in northern Cameroon on Friday, killing at least one
Cameroonian soldier, and at least 10 people are believed to
have been kidnapped, the regional governor said.
"We have affirmed our solidarity and determination to
vigorously fight Boko Haram," Cameroon President Paul Biya
said. "They have committed one more attack, attacked
businessmen and this comes after the French hostages were
kidnapped. As we speak we are searching for an Italian priest
and a Canadian nun. The problem has become regional, if not a
The group has killed more than 3,000 people in its war to
establish an Islamic state in mostly Muslim northeast
Biya said he would send more means and troops to the north,
but that Boko Haram had been picking soft targets and
outnumbering his troops.
Nigeria has complained the far north of Cameroon is being
used by Boko Haram militants to shelter from a Nigerian
military offensive and to transport weapons, and has urged
Cameroon to tighten border security.
Jonathan said there was a "misconception" in the relation
between the two countries over crossing each others borders
and that this would now be ironed out.
"The main outcome is that the region is now aware of a
problem that for a long time was considered an internal
Nigerian problem. Abuja has accepted to go beyond its
borders," a Western diplomatic source said.
Highlighting that, the source said Nigeria, which sits on the
15-member U.N. Security Council, had agreed in principle to
ask for Boko Haram and its key members to be placed on a U.N.
sanctions list, as has been the case with other militant
groups such as al Qaeda.
"The world is aware of these young school girls who were
abducted, but quite frankly Boko Haram has been creating
havoc for sometime," U.S. Under Secretary for Political
Affairs Wendy Sherman told Reuters.
"We are all coordinated, we are all focused, this doesn't
stop at borders, terrorism does not know borders and so we're
going to work in a collective manner to get the job done."