UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council urged West and Central African countries on Thursday to improve regional military coordination to more effectively combat Boko Haram militants in northern Nigeria.
Boko Haram has become the main security threat facing Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer, and increasingly threatens neighboring countries.
The African Union (AU) has authorized a force of 7,500 troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin to fight the Islamist militants.
In a statement, the U.N. Security Council welcomed a meeting in Cameroon from Thursday to Saturday to finalize how the force will operate. Diplomats say once that is complete, the AU is likely to ask for U.N. Security Council support.
Nigeria and Chad are currently both members of the Security Council.
Boko Haram insurgents seek to create an Islamist emirate in northern Nigeria, and killed some 10,000 people last year.
Chad has already deployed some 2,500 troops to the regional force that will take on the militant group.
Chadian troops clashed with Boko Haram fighters in the northeastern Nigerian town of Gambaru on Tuesday in a bid to break the insurgents’ grip on the town bordering Cameroon.
The U.N. Security Council “noted that the Chadian military counterattack against Boko Haram into Nigerian territory was conducted with the consent and the collaboration of ... Nigeria whose territorial integrity remained intact.”
It “commended the Chadian army’s swift assistance in the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria, during which territory was recaptured from Boko Haram and more than two hundred Boko Haram terrorists were neutralized and equipment was recovered, including a dozen vehicles mounted with heavy weapons.”
The council condemned the Boko Haram attack and also a separate incident that killed at least three Cameroonian troops and a “sizeable number” of civilians.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols. Editing by Andre Grenon