Government forces from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger have bombarded jihadist bases in the Lake Chad basin with support from a US drone, the armies of the four nations announced Monday.
The vast basin has become the epicenter of violence led by Nigeria’s Boko Haram and its rival branch Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
“The aim of this special operation was to neutralize the ISWAP bases in the Matari forest (of Nigeria) from where every year attacks are led” on three towns with army outposts in Niger, the multinational force said.
The bombardment took place late last week after observing “about 50 terrorists” in the region on Friday and Saturday, a statement said.
Much of the operation was carried out by troops from Niger “with the support of a drone from American partners”, it added.
Troops from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon bombarded ISWAP bases on the fringes of the Lake Chad basin for two consecutive days. Such joint operations are not rare. What is novel about this operation was that they received direct support from a U.S MQ-9 Reaper drone. pic.twitter.com/7udoyfcN4x
— Defense News Nigeria (@DefenseNigeria) January 30, 2023
Thirty-six suspected terrorists were captured and an encampment and base camp were “destroyed”, the force said.
“A large number of these criminals on the run … were intercepted.”
The multinational force said it suffered no losses.
The three towns of Maine Soroa, Chetinari and Chetimari Wangou, located in the Diffa region of southeast Niger have suffered repeated jihadist attacks since 2015.
Maine Soroa, 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Diffa, had been spared until 2019 when a violent attack saw Doctors without Borders (MSF) pullout after suspected jihadists raided the NGO’s offices there.
The military post at Chetimari Wangou, 25 kilometers from Diffa, has been attacked by ISWAP several times.
Last June, the multinational force announced it had killed more than 800 ISWAP fighters over two months in the vast marshy Lake Chad area, bordering the four nations.
Nigerian security forces are battling Boko Haram and ISWAP jihadists in the country’s northeast, where the conflict has killed 40,000 people and displaced 2.2 million more
The four nations set up the 8,500-strong multinational force in 2105 to tackle the armed groups.
The states around Lake Chad and international donors last week pledged at a conference in Niamey more than $500 million to help the millions of civilians threatened by jihadist insurgents and climate change in the region.