Chad, Niger Launch Offensive against Boko Haram
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Chad and Niger launched a joint army operation against Boko Haram fighters in Nigeria, military sources said.
A source from the Niger government said the two countries had launched a "ground and air" operation against Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria.
"We can confirm that Chadian and Nigerian forces launched an offensive this morning from Niger. The offensive is under way," Colonel Azem Bermandoa, spokesperson for Chad's army, said on Sunday.
The offensive marks Niger's first major push into Nigerian territory to combat Boko Haram. It had until now only defended itself against incursions in border areas.
Chad, backed by its air force, has already sent troops many kilometres inside northeastern Nigeria, winning back areas from the group near the Cameroon border, Al Jazeera reported.
So far more than 30 towns and villages have been retaken from Boko Haram since Chad and Niger joined efforts by Nigerian and Cameroonian troops to fight the group.
The fresh offensive comes after the African Union on Friday endorsed the creation of a regional force of up to 10,000 men to join the fight against the group which on Saturday pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
"For Chad, Niger and Cameroon, defeating Boko Haram is crucial. Five years of violence has cut of much of trade between them and Africa's biggest economy, Nigeria," Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris, reporting from Abuja, said.
"There is also the fear that the group, if left unchecked, will expand its area of control and become a bigger threat for the entire region."