Boko Haram: Chadian tanks head for Nigeria, Cameroon

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Dozens of Chadian tanks headed out of the capital, N’Djamena, on Friday, south towards Cameroon to help fight the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents.

The convoy, seen by an AFP journalist, roared out of the city after Chad’s parliament voted to send armed forces to Cameroon and Nigeria to fight against the Islamists.

It is rumoured to be eventually heading to Baga, the town on the shores of Lake Chad were as many as 2,000 people were massacred by the militants in a raid on January 7 described by US Secretary of State John Kerry as a “crime against humanity.”

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya had announced on Thursday that his Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby had agreed to send “a substantial contingent” of troops to help Cameroonian armed forces, who have faced repeated attacks from Boko Haram.

The Russian ambassador to the country also pledged to supply Cameroon with more modern weapons to combat the extremists.

The deployment came as the head of the west African ECOWAS bloc called for tougher action against Boko Haram, floating the possibility of a special African Union summit on “a plan of action to deal permanently with the issue of terror on our continent.”

Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama said, “We cannot stand by silently, idly waiting for the international community to intervene on our behalf, not when our brothers and sisters are being butchered and burnt in their homes and on the streets of their villages and towns.”

A source close to the Chadian army said the force had begun preparing for departure on Thursday.

Boko Haram is fighting to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria along the border with Chad, Cameroon and Niger. But it has recently expanded its attacks to neighbouring countries.

Cameroon has been critical of the passivity of the Nigerian authorities and of muted international reaction in the face of Boko Haram aggression.

Since Boko Haram’s insurgency began, around 135,000 people have fled the restive northeast of Nigeria, and at least 850,000 have been displaced inside the region.

So far Chad has been spared, but its border is not far from the Islamists’ strongholds in the Nigerian state of Borno.

The entry of Chadian forces in the increasingly regional fight against Boko Haram may prove valuable in halting the extremists’ sweeping offensives.

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