Abuja, Nigeria (AFP) — Nigeria insisted Monday it will crush Boko Haram militants and avoid another election postponement, even as violence raged and the Islamists’ leader vowed to defeat a regional force hunting them.
National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki’s comments came as Boko Haram launched another attack in neighbouring Niger and reports emerged of 20 people kidnapped in Cameroon, with 12 of them executed.
Dasuki, who at the weekend secured a six-week delay to Nigeria’s presidential elections, said “all known Boko Haram camps will be taken out” by the time of the rescheduled vote.
“They won’t be there. They will be dismantled,” he told AFP in an interview when asked what gains could be made against the Islamists before the new polling date of March 28.
Nigeria has previously set deadlines to defeat the insurgents that have come and gone.
But Dasuki said that even if the goal was not achieved “the situation then would surely be conducive enough for elections”, with no need for a further postponement to voting.
Meanwhile Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau mocked west African leaders’ multinational force in a new video on YouTube on Monday, saying it “won’t achieve anything”.
The Islamists last week opened up a new front in Niger after sustained attacks in Cameroon’s far northern region, which led to the deployment of Chadian troops alongside Cameroon forces.
They have widened their offensive in recent weeks in the far north-east of Nigeria around Lake Chad where the borders of all four countries converge.
On Sunday, suspected Islamists kidnapped 20 passengers aboard a bus going from Koza to Mora in the far north of Cameroon, then killed 12 of them and released the rest.
“Everyday citizens are frequently kidnapped in this region …,” a security source said. “Some are usually freed when their families negotiate, while others are killed.”
On Monday, militant fighters raided a prison in Diffa, southeast Niger, but were repelled, just hours before the country’s parliament was to vote on deploying troops for the regional fight-back.
A deadly explosion then ripped through a local market, with one local merchant saying: “Everything blew up — I saw bodies everywhere.”
Boko Haram released three new videos on YouTube, one of them a 28-minute speech from its leader Shekau in an undisclosed location flanked by eight masked fighters.
He dismissed the threat from regional forces, stating: “Your alliance will not achieve anything.”
Nigeria maintains that the involvement of troops from Chad and Cameroon is part of an existing agreement to fight the Islamists between countries in the Lake Chad region.
On Saturday, Nigeria and its neighbours — Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin — agreed to muster 8,700 troops, police and civilians for a wider, African Union-backed force against Boko Haram.
The United States estimates Shekau as having between 4,000 to 6,000 hard-core fighters at his disposal, and he dismissed the threat from regional troops.
“You send 7,000 troops? Why don’t you send seven million? This is small. Only 7,000? By Allah, it is small. We can seize them one-by-one. We can seize them one-by-one,” he said in Arabic.
Shekau also directly threatened Chad’s President Idriss Deby, whose forces have attacked Boko Haram in the northeast Nigerian towns of Gamboru and Malam Fatori in recent days.