Troops from the United States yesterday began drone surveillance operation over Sambisa Forest with many Boko Haram militants reportedly spotted.
Sambisa forest is largely considered the domain of the notorious Boko Haram sect, and likely location the insurgents are holding over 200 school girls who were abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State in April, 2014.
The deployment followed Wednesday’s announcement that the US government was sending 300 troops along with surveillance drones to Cameroon to bolster the West African effort to counter the Boko Haram sect.
Nigeria and Cameroon have welcomed the US decision.
The spokesman of the Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, has said that the development was welcome, while the Nigerian military said it demonstrated cooperation that was needed against the insurgents.
“The United States has given the pledge to support the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria and in the region,” Shehu told AFP by telephone.
“This is the fulfilment of that pledge and we are very happy about it. The United States’ move is quite commendable,” he stated.
Similarly, the spokesman of the military, Rabe Abubakar, said that “this is how the fight can be done collectively with partners cooperating with us to fight against a common cause – terrorism – which has been ravaging the region for some time now.”
In the same vein, Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya called the the US deployment a “precious contribution” to the war against the Insurgents, who have recently been hitting at soft targets in Nigeria, their main focus.
According to the US government in a notice to Congress, President Barack Obama had said that an advance force of about 90 military personnel began deploying on Monday to Cameroon, with the consent of the Yaounde government.
The troops will “conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the region,” Obama said.
“These forces are equipped with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security, and they will remain in Cameroon until their support is no longer needed,” he added.
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the troops would provide intelligence to the multi-national task force set up to fight Boko Haram, comprising troops from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin Republic.
The American officials said the US soldiers would deploy initially to the city of Garoua in northern Cameroon, not far from the Nigerian border where the force will include predator drones for surveillance.
The White House said the move was not in response to any changed assessment of threat in the region.
The US has no combat troops in Africa, but has been increasing support to allies battling Boko Haram.