Chad and Niger launched a joint army operation against Boko Haram in Nigeria on Sunday, military sources said, intensifying a regional push to try to defeat the armed group that has killed thousands in a six-year insurgency.
Boko Haram has expanded cross-border raids into Cameroon, Chad and Niger in recent months, spurring Nigeria’s neighbors to retaliate, although cooperation between them and the government in Abuja has been limited and at times strained.
Sunday’s strike marks Niger’s first incursion deep into Nigerian territory; the country’s troops had until now only fought Boko Haram in the border area.
Chad has already sent troops many miles inside northeastern Nigeria, winning back areas from the rebel group near the Nigeria-Cameroon border.
“We can confirm that Chadian and Nigerien forces launched an offensive this morning from Niger. The offensive is underway,” said Col. Azem Bermandoa, spokesman for Chad’s army.
A witness in Niger’s southeastern town of Diffa said he saw a convoy of at least 300 vehicles, including army jeeps equipped with heavy weapons as well as water and fuel trucks, leaving barracks overnight and heading toward the border.