French President, Francois Hollande, said on Saturday that Boko Haram has ample funds, highly sophisticated weaponry and advanced training with some of the world’s most experienced terrorists, just as he and other African leaders brainstormed on how to combat the outlawed fundamentalist sect.
Hollande said this at the summit in Paris, France, which he initiated to draw up a plan to find and rescue more than 200 schoolgirls being held hostage by Boko Haram.
Intelligence officials from the U.S., Europe and Africa shared information at the roundtable while heads of state and top diplomats tackled policy issues.
Hours after yet another attack in a Boko Haram stronghold, this time in Cameroun near the border with Nigeria, the leaders agreed to improve policing of frontiers, sharing of intelligence and tracking the weapons and cash that are the group’s lifeblood.
The attack late Friday against a Chinese engineering firm’s camp in Cameroun left at least 10 people missing and one person dead.
“This group is armed with heavy weapons of an unimaginable sophistication and the ability to use them,” Hollande said.
He said the weapons came from chaotic Libya and the training took place in Mali before the ouster of its al-Qaida linked Islamist leaders.
As for the money, he said its origins were murky.
The French President also emphasized that Boko Haram had clearly established ties with other terror groups in Africa, making it a concern throughout the continent and beyond.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan told the gathering that what started as a local insurgency in North eastern part of the country, has now evolved into the new frontier of the global war of terrorism against the region.
“This is not anymore a challenge to Nigeria alone, it is a threat to each and every one of us in this room,” Jonathan stressed.
He said the group is hostile to democracy and uses every means to indoctrinate its members, with its ultimate objective being to destabilize the country and take it over as a base of operation in West Africa and the entire continent.
“This unconventional war has so far claimed over 12, 000 lives, with more than 8, 000 persons injured or maimed, not to mention the displacement of thousands of innocent Nigerians,” he said.
The summit concluded with promises to co-ordinate border patrols, pool intelligence and track trafficked weapons.
The Boko Haram Sect emerged in 2002 while its insurgency phase started as far back as 2009.
Officially known as the Jamaa’tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’wati Wal Jihad, which in English means “people committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”, the group is more commonly identified with its motivating principle and referred to as Boko Haram which literally means Western or non-Islamic education is prohibited.
Since 2009, Nigeria has had to contend with many attacks which have now developed into a full-scale war targeting the stability of the country.
Boko Haram has launched a vicious guerrilla-style campaign against the government and the people of Nigeria and has attacked schools, slaughtered students in their dormitories, destroyed villages, communities and government infrastructure and wreaked havoc on the economic and social life of North eastern Nigeria.
Former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo said Friday in Nairobi, Kenya, that President Jonathan is “overwhelmed” by the security situation and has not been able to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency.