Nigeria may claim to have “won the war” against the Islamic State-affiliated terror organization Boko Haram, but for neighboring Chad and Niger, the battle rages on. Chad announced the deployment of 2,000 troops to Bosso, Niger — a town now under Boko Haram’s control following a series of attacks over the past week.
Reuters reports that Chad has confirmed the deployment of 2,000 troops, all having already arrived in Niger on Tuesday to fight the Boko Haram jihadists now stationed in Bosso, a town in the Lake Chad region on the Nigerian border.
“The first Chadian soldiers have already arrived in Bosso on board around 30 heavily-armed all-terrain vehicles,” a source close to the Chadian army told Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper, adding that the forces participating in the offensive in Bosso will be “multi-national,” not just Chadian.
The need for international troops follows days of assaults in Bosso, home to a Nigerien military post that is currently under Boko Haram control. Vanguard cites government reports confirming the deaths of 26 soldiers at the military base, with 55 jihadists dying in the takeover. A journalist trapped in Bosso sent a message to Vanguard detailing the attack: “The Boko Haram gunmen stayed in Bosso from 6:30 pm (1730 GMT) on Friday to 3:00 am on Saturday, burning the military barracks, police facilities and local administration office before looting shops and carting away food supplies… They came in large numbers shouting ‘Allahu Akbar.'”
Multiple reports in the past year have described Boko Haram jihadists as starved not just for weapons, but for food, particularly those that have fled to remote areas to avoid being captured by Nigerian troops. The capture of a town like Bosso can secure food supplies for Boko Haram soldiers for weeks, in addition to threatening the starvation of civilians who now find themselves without their food supplies in a remote area of Niger.
The United Nations estimates that 50,000 Nigerien civilians fled Bosso upon the arrival of Boko Haram, most walking to neighboring Toumour and, later, the refugee camp in Diffa. “The welfare of these people and others forced to flee the violence in Bosso is of great concern,” UN Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters Tuesday, noting that many are walking in the middle of deserted, difficult-to-reach areas that make it extremely challenging to provide them with aid.
While Chad and Niger continue the struggle against Boko Haram, publicly acknowledging the challenges facing the military, Nigeria has issued another public statement praising the military for its destruction of the group. At a press conference Wednesday, Commander of the counter-insurgency operation in the North-East (Operation Lafiya Dole), Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor assured reporters that most Boko Haram jihadists are now trapped in the Sambisa forest of northeastern Borno state and are completely surrounded.
“He said the soldiers are only waiting for the insurgents holed up in the forest to surrender as life has become unbearable for them,” Nigeria’s This Day reports.
Nigeria will also be aiding Niger by resettling Nigerian refugees who fled into Niger to escape Boko Haram, making room for the refugees now internally displaced in Niger. Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced this week that the nation has weakened Boko Haram enough to feel comfortable welcoming refugees now currently in Niger, Cameroon, and Chad back home “soon.” Osinbajo is currently the nation’s acting president, as President Muhammadu Buhari is out of the country receiving medical care.