NAIROBI — The fight against Boko Haram is escalating, with troops from Niger and Chad crossing into northeastern Nigeria to fight the insurgency in a further sign that what began as a Nigerian problem has grown into a volatile regional one.
The troops began their push Sunday, a day after a series of suicide bombings in northeastern Nigeria killed as many as 100 civilians, and weeks before the country’s presidential election, which many worry could turn violent.
Boko Haram emerged in 2009 as a local insurgency, but it has increasingly become a regional threat, articulating wider ambitions. On Saturday, it declared its allegiance to the Islamic State fighters who have seized swaths of Iraq and Syria. Experts, however, described that pledge as little more than a rhetorical flourish.
The Nigerian fighters’ expansion across borders in recent months has been a wake-up call for Washington and for countries in the region, which had watched for years as a domestic military campaign failed to stamp out the group. Even as Boko Haram’s fiefdom within Africa’s wealthiest country grew to the size of Belgium, the Nigerian troops sent to fight it were poorly armed and sporadically paid.
Now, the militants’ bold attacks outside Nigeria have prompted a growing regional counterinsurgency effort that could finally weaken the Islamist radicals.