African countries declare war on Boko Haram

West African leaders vow to tighten borders, share intelligence and strengthen cooperation against armed group.

Countries neighbouring Nigeria are ready to wage war against the Nigeria-based, al-Qaeda-linked group, Boko Haram, Chad’s president says.

Idriss Deby made the statement after a summit in Paris on Saturday that also included Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and representatives from West African countries Cameroon, Benin, Niger plus the United States, the European Union, Britain and France.

“There is determination to tackle this situation head on…to launch a war, a total war on Boko Haram,” Deby said after the meeting, which was aimed at finding a common strategy to fight the armed group.

French President Francois Hollande had called the summit following the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria last month.

Without West African countries coming together, we will not be able to crush these terrorists.

by Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria's president

The leaders who attended the meeting agreed on tightened border controls, shared intelligence and to take a collaborative approach when fighting the armed group.

Jonathan said Boko Haram had evolved from a small group to being part of the broader al-Qaeda organisation.

“Boko Haram is no longer the local terror group with some regional sentiment that started in Nigeria in 2002 to 2009,” Jonathan said.

“From 2009 to date, it has changed and is operating clearly as an al-Qaeda organisation. It can better be described as an al-Qaeda in West and Central Africa.”

Francois Hollande, the French president, said Boko Haram had clearly established ties with other “terror” groups in Africa, making it a problem throughout the continent and beyond.

“The message we want to send is that we know the threat. It is serious, it is serious for the region, for Africa and so for Europe. We have deployed our military and intelligence system to find these young girls,” Hollande said.

Jonathan said West African countries need to take a collaborative approach to fight Boko Haram.

“Without West African countries coming together, we will not be able to crush these terrorists,” he said.

Little collaboration

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from the Nigerian capital of Abuja, said there had been little collaboration between African nations in the fight against the armed group so far.

“There hasn’t been much cooperation at the moment and this is maybe one of the reasons why Boko Haram has managed to flourish across the Nigerian border,” Adow said. “The commitment that has been given by Cameroon, Chad, Niger and also Benin will go a long way in the fight against Boko Haram.”

Nigeria under pressure over missing girls

“Nigeria has been unable to control the Boko Haram menace within its borders,” Adow said, adding that the armed group had become more sophisticated.

“It just shows you how incapable the Nigerian forces have been in trying to control Boko Haram and now they need help,” he said.

Boko Haram has launched a series of attacks in Nigeria this year.

The 276 schoolgirls and women were kidnapped on April 15 from a school in Chibok. Most of them are still being held captive, with the group’s leader threatening to sell them into slavery.

In February, another 59 students were killed when fighters attacked a boarding school in Yobe state, setting several buildings on fire.

Two bombs also exploded in a crowded bus station in Abuja on April 14, killing 88 people and injuring more than 200 others.

On May 7, fighters believed to be from Boko Haram, killed at least 300 people in a village in Gamborou in Borno state.

The same month, a car bomb struck in an Abuja suburb, killing 19 people and injuring more than 60 others.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies