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Posted on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 11:10

US offers support to tackle Boko Haram

By Konye Obaji Ori

The United States, which does not want to sell arms to Nigerian, has pledged to share communications equipment and intelligence with Lagos to aid its fight against Islamist group Boko Haram.

According to Major General Linder, Commander of United States Special Forces operations in Africa, Washington would introduce technology allowing African countries fighting Boko Haram to communicate between cellphones, radios and computers.

We need support in terms of intelligence and logistics

"Our national leadership has been very clear that more was going to be done ... There is an ongoing discussion on how we will provide additional tools, techniques, and material to partner nations," Linder was quoted as saying.

The pledge was made ahead of the United States command's annual "Flintlock" counter-terrorism exercises in Chad.

West African military commanders had complained that the lack of compatible communications equipment had made it difficult to swap information and coordinate military operations against militants.

"We need support in terms of intelligence and logistics, above all in communication because the equipment we have comes from different countries, and their support will make our task much easier," Chadian director of the Flintlock exercises, Brigadier General Zakaria Ngobongue, told Reuters.

"The Americans have aerial capabilities that we do not have."

The proposed communication assistance involves systems that would allow West African soldiers in the field to transmit photos from remote locations in the Sahel immediately to a central command room.

West African soldiers would be able to precisely pin-point the coordinates of personnel.

The United States military will also be introducing a "cloud-based" technology to allow African allies to quickly share intelligence across borders, such as mapping information on the location of potential targets.

Linder told reporters that African armies were well placed to gather this kind of information, but the United States could share other kinds of intelligence to boost the success of operations against Boko Haram.

About 1,300 soldiers from 28 African and Western nations are in attendance at the ninth edition of Flintlock in Chad.

This year's Flintlock assembly will focus on the importance of troops fostering strong relations with local communities to gain intelligence on insurgent groups.

According to the United States command, Washington's long-term goal is to enable African countries to be sufficiently trained and equipped to face their own security challenges.

Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Benin are preparing a joint task-force of 8,700 men to take on Boko Haram.

Last year, Boko Haram killed an estimated 10,000 people in its campaign to carve an Islamist emirate from northern Nigeria.

On Tuesday the group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, appeared in a video monitored by the United States.-based SITE Intelligence Group in which he threatened to disrupt upcoming Nigerian elections.

Chad's military played a leading role in a French-led campaign that ousted Islamist groups from northern Mali in 2013, and is prepared to lead attacks against Boko Haram positions in Nigeria's border regions.



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