NIAMEY, Oct 1, (Agencies): A joint military operation between Chad and Niger has killed 123 Boko Haram militants since July and recovered a signifi cant quantity of weapons, Niger’s Defence Ministry said on Friday. Allied Chadian-Nigerien forces launched an offensive against the Islamists after a surprise attack in Niger killed 30 of the country’s troops in early June, its deadliest ever attack there.
Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Moustapha Ledru said 14 of the two nations’ own troops had also died and 39 had been wounded in fi ghting with the Nigerian militant group over the same period. “An important quantity of arms and weapons were recovered,” he added. Boko Haram is waging a guerrilla war to establish a breakaway Islamic caliphate around the Lake Chad region, where Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad meet.
Ledru said a parallel offensive involving Nigerian forces had recaptured four towns from the Islamists, whose insurgency has killed thousands and displaced 2.4 million. The UN humanitarian coordinator for the region said on Friday that tens of thousands of people are dying of hunger because insecurity has prevented farmers tilling the land and made access for aid agencies almost impossible. Meanwhile, without more donor support the emergency caused by Boko Haram will become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, a top UN official said Friday, as a massive appeal remained just a quarter funded.
United Nations assistant secretary- general Toby Lanzer said the suffering in northeast Nigeria and surrounding areas was the worst he had ever witnessed. “I have worked in Darfur,” Lanzer told reporters, referring to the war-torn Sudanese region. “The scale and the depth of suffering that I have seen (in Nigeria) is unparalleled in my experience.”
Nigeria-born Islamist group Boko Haram has waged a brutal insurgency in the country’s northeast, with violence spreading more recently to western Cameroon as well as the south of Chad and Niger. The UN has appealed for a $739 million to cover needs across the entire affected region — known as the Lake Chad Basin — but has received commitments for just $197 million (176 million euros).
“If we don’t engage in a much more comprehensive manner, including scaling up our emergency relief programmes, what awaits us down the line is the biggest crisis facing any of us, anywhere,” Lanzer said. More than nine million people are in “desperate” need of aid, Lanzer said. The United Nations had not declared a famine in the Lake Chad Basin, but Lanzer warned that 65,000 people were living in “famine-like conditions”. The UN has also said that up to 80,000 children in the region could die if they do not get food aid within the next year.