Nigerian commander of a new multinational force pledges to crush Boko Haram 'very soon'
The Nigerian commander of a new multinational force set up to fight Boko Haram Islamists on Friday pledged to bring an end to their six-year insurgency “very soon.
“I assure (you), by the will of God, that I will live (up) to expectations and we will see the end of this menace very soon,” Major General Iliya Abbah said at a ceremony in Abuja, where he was formally appointed chief of the Multinational Joint Task Force.
The 8,700-strong force has its headquarters in the Chadian capital N’Djamena and is expected to be more effective than a regional offensive launched earlier this year to fight Boko Haram, whose insurgency has claimed some 15,000 lives.
“As soon as I get on the ground, everybody will take position,” Abbah said, adding that troops would be deployed “any time from today”.
Abbah was named commander on Thursday, when Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said during a visit to Cameroon the force would be ready to go into action “by the end of this month”.
The force will contain troops from Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, with Benin also committed to help.
However Buhari also complained of a lack of resources, saying: “After the promises of G7 countries to help the region defeat Boko Haram, we are waiting for training, equipment and intelligence assistance.”
Abbah, a Muslim from northern Nigeria, previously served as the army’s military secretary, where he was responsible for promotions, postings and retirements, and was also part of Nigeria’s contingent to peacekeeping operations in Sudan’s troubled western Darfur region.
On Friday Abbah described his new assignment as “familiar terrain”.
“I assure you, when we hit the ground, the story will be different… The formation of the Multinational Joint Task Force is the best thing that has ever happened to the region,” he said.
Nigeria’s army chief Major General Tukur Yusuf Buratai described Abbah as a “seasoned, experienced” infantry general.
“He did extremely well to contain Boko Haram from spreading into the northwest,” Buratai said at Friday’s ceremony.
While the regional offensive launched in February has successfully forced Boko Haram out of several positions, the Islamists have unleashed a new wave of violence since Buhari became president in May, killing more than 800 people in just two months.
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