The United States is preparing to launch a “major” border security program to help Nigeria and its neighbors combat the increasing number and scope of attacks by Islamic extremists, a senior U.S. official for Africa said Thursday.
Nigerian insurgents have begun attacking villages in neighboring Cameroon and have been seizing land in northeast Nigeria where they proclaimed an Islamic caliphate.
Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a meeting of U.S. and Nigerian officials in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, that “Despite our collective efforts, the situation on the ground is worsening.
“The frequency and scope of Boko Haram’s terror attacks have grown more acute and constitute a serious threat to this country’s overall security,” she said. “This is a sober reality check for all of us. We are past time for denial and pride.”
The government denied that Boko Haram this week overran Bama, the second largest city in Borno state, but Thomas-Greenfield said, “We are very troubled by the apparent capture of Bama and the prospects for an attack on and in Maiduguri.”
And the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it is “extremely concerned about the further deterioration of the security situation following the recent attack by Boko Haram on Bama town.”
Bama, a city of about 200,000 people is just 75 kilometers (45 miles) from Maiduguri, the Borno state capital that is the headquarters of the military campaign against Boko Haram.
A senior Borno state security officer said a bombing raid Wednesday destroyed a Boko Haram camp outside Bama. The officer said two Air Force jets spotted the insurgents, who apparently were gathering for a meeting. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give information to journalists.
The officer and a member of the Nigerian Vigilante Group of civilians fighting Boko Haram both said some of the thousands of Bama residents who fled were returning home. There was no way to independently verify the confusing and conflicting information about Bama.