Despite military gains against Boko Haram, a summit of West African and international leaders has been urged to do more to stop the extremists' deadly insurgency. Leaders met in Abuja, Nigeria's capital.
Delegates atSaturday's conference
were told that tackling Boko Haram militarily would not be enough to defeat them and there was a need to eradicate the root causes of the conflict - poverty, deprivation and lack of opportunity.
French PresidentFrancois Hollande
said despite "impressive" military gains against Boko Haram since a security summit in Paris two years ago, the group remained a threat because of its links to the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" and no-one should drop their guard.US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken
said a "sustained and comprehensive" approach was needed in all aspects from tackling extremism to reconstruction. In particular he pointed out the need to treat former Boko Haram fighters and suspects in line with human rights obligations, followingaccusations of military abuses
against civilians and suspected militants.
"These efforts can address the drivers of extremism that helped give rise to Boko Haram in the first place," Blinken said, warning that otherwise the next version of the Sunni Muslim group, whose goal is to impose its bloody interpretation of Islamic law on Nigeria, would "rise from its ashes."
Nigeria invited leaders from its neighboring countries Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger - whose troops will form part of an 8,500 member regional anti-Boko Haram force - to Saturday's summit in Abuja. It was also attended by French President Francois Hollande and representatives from the European Union, the United States and Britain as well as delegations from West African and Central African blocs.
While military operations have seen Boko Haram pushed back to remote border areas around Lake Chad in recent months, Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond called for much more than a military strategy and regional coordination.
Countries hit by the violence needed to win "the hearts and minds of those terrorized by Boko Haram," Hammond said.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigeria also faced the major task of rebuilding destroyed infrastructure.
The Boko Haram conflict in northeastern Nigeria, which has also spilled over on occasion to neighboring nations, has been going on for seven years and left 20,000 people dead. More than 2.6 million people have been displaced.
se/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)