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Boko Haram hits Niger again

February 8, 2015

A bombing has killed at least one person in a border town in the West African nation of Niger. In Nigeria, thousands protested a decision to postpone elections in order to concentrate resources on fighting Boko Haram.

Nigeria Demonstration gegen Verschiebung der Wahl 7. Februar 2015
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/O. Gbemiga

Witnesses said a suicide bomber detonated in the border town of Diffa Sunday, hours after troops repelled the latest assault by Boko Haram since Friday, when the Nigeria-based terrorist group hit both Diffa and Bosso, another border town.

On Friday, troops from Chad and Niger responded in Bosso, and Niger's army inflicted "heavy losses" on Boko Haram in Diffa, Niger Defense Minister Mahamadou Karijo had said, adding that up to 109 of the group's fighters had been killed.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Boko Haram killed nearly 100 people in Cameroon. On Saturday, regional and African Union officials meeting in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, unveiled a proposal for a five-nation force of as many as 8,750 members to combat Boko Haram. Some have estimated that the group has at least 4,000 "hard-core" members.

'Greatly jeopardized'

Skeptical Nigerians have taken to the street after the country postponed its February 14 elections until March 28. Critics say President Goodluck Jonathan and his People's Democratic Party hope to sway support from former dictator Muhammadu Buhari - the first serious electoral challenge to the PDP since the end of military rule in 1999. Officials say the military must concentrate on fighting Boko Haram.

"If the security of personnel, voters, election observers and election materials cannot be guaranteed, the lives of innocent young men and women and the prospect of free, fair and credible elections will be greatly jeopardized," election commission chairman Attahiru Jega said on Saturday.

Nigeria's national security adviser had previously submitted a request to delay the elections on the grounds that there was insufficient time to distribute voter cards. When that failed, Sambo Dasuki wrote Jega to explain that his agency could not guarantee security on February 14 because it had committed all available military resources to an intensified operation against Boko Haram in the northeast.

The former military ruler Buhari's All Progressives Congress called the postponement "a major setback for Nigerian democracy" and asked citizens to "desist from violence" to not "fall into this obvious trap."

mkg/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)