World Bulletin/News Desk
Defense and foreign affairs ministers from Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin met Monday in Abuja to chart a strategy for effectively combating the Boko Haram militant group.
"Today's meeting provides another opportunity for us to take collective measures in the ongoing fight against terrorism and to intensify our joint action to curb insurgency and extremism within and across our national boundaries," Foreign Minister Aminu Wali told reporters.
"I am confident that our deliberations today will boost our collective efforts in tackling the Boko Haram insurgency and cross-border terrorism," he added.
The ministers held a one-day meeting to work out a legal framework for a regional combat force that will become operational by November 1 with a mandate to fight cross-border crime, including the activities Boko Haram militants.
The agreement on the force – along with other agreements – was reached by the leaders of the five countries at an October 7 summit in Nigerien capital Niamey.
The leaders agreed to finalize the deployment of troops promised by member states, drawing up the force within their national borders by November 1.
A communiqué issued after the meeting said that a command center for the regional force would be in place by November 20.
Wali said that defense and foreign ministers had assessed the security situation and agreed on a common strategy to fight Boko Haram in the sub-region.
"It is my conviction that the common draft resolutions that will be agreed on at the end of this meeting will enable the United Nations Security Council and African Union to put in place an appropriate legal framework that will enhance cross-border military operations against Boko Haram, as well as develop a common defense strategy in the fight against terrorism in our sub-region," he told reporters.
"We may not be able to totally erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings or stamp out every danger to our open society," the minister conceded.
"What we can do is to dismantle the terrorist network that poses a direct danger to us and make it less likely for new groups to gain footholds," he added.
Boko Haram militants are known to launch attacks from border communities and then escape through the waterways of Lake Chad, which lies on the border between Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria.The group has also been blamed for several earlier cross-border attacks on targets in Cameroon.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan later met with the ministers at his presidential villa.
"I am quite pleased with the decisions we took in Niamey to enhance and boost joint actions against Boko Haram and other cross-border criminals because we have to work together to defeat Boko Haram and other extremist groups in our sub-region," he told the ministers, according to a statement by presidential spokesman Reuben Abati.
Jonathan said he was confident that joint patrols, military operations and intelligence sharing among the four nations would help check the insurgents and other cross-border crimes, Abati said in the statement.
"If we cooperate more and monitor our borders closely, the movement of criminals and terrorists – as well as small arms and ammunition – across our shared borders will also be drastically reduced," he added.Last Mod: 13 Ekim 2014, 22:16