YAOUNDE, Cameroon — Nigeria and its four bordering countries announced plans Saturday to deploy an 8,750-strong force by next month to combat the growing regional threat posed by Boko Haram.
Details of the proposed deployment were revealed at the end of a three-day meeting in Cameroon in a statement read out by officials, including Issaka Souare, African Union adviser for Mali and the Sahel.
The plans call for Chad and Nigeria to contribute 3,500 troops each, while Cameroon and Niger would contribute 750 each and Benin would contribute 250. The force would be headquartered in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena.
Nigeria’s conflict with Boko Haram has taken on an increasingly regional dimension in recent months, with the extremists staging attacks in Cameroon and Niger in the last week alone.
Nearly 100 people were killed and some 500 wounded in an attack on the town of Fotokol in Cameroon on Wednesday and Thursday that saw Boko Haram fighters raze mosques and churches and use civilians as human shields, Cameroon officials said.
On Friday, Boko Haram attacked two towns in Niger, killing four soldiers and wounding 17. Niger’s defense minister said 109 Boko Haram fighters were killed after Chad and Niger troops responded to that assault, though the figure could not be independently verified.
Earlier this month, AU heads of state announced plans for a 7,500-member force to fight Boko Haram. Officials said Saturday that the number was increased to 8,750 to allow for the inclusion of police and humanitarian officials.
Saturday’s statement said $4 million was urgently needed for the deployment, though it was unclear where this and other funding would come from.
Jacqueline Seck Diouf, who represented the United Nations at the talks in Cameroon, said the UN had promised logistical support for now but added that the AU was requesting funding. Further assistance would need to be approved by the UN Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, she said.
Cameroon Defense Minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o declined to discuss proposed operational details for the force.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s electoral commission will postpone Feb. 14 presidential and legislative elections for six weeks to give the new multinational force time to secure northeastern areas under the sway of Boko Haram, an official close to the commission said Saturday.
Millions could be disenfranchised if next week’s voting went ahead while the Islamic extremists hold a large swath of the northeast and commit mayhem that has driven 1.5 million people from their homes.