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Niger capital marches against Boko Haram

February 17, 2015

Tens of thousands of people have marched through Niger's capital, Niamey, against Boko Haram Islamists. Crowds gathered in support of the country's military following a series of attacks along the Nigerian border.

Protest against Boko Haram in Niamey, Niger
Image: AFP/Getty Images/B. Hama

According to organizers, up to 35,000 people turned out to demonstrate in Niamey on Tuesday, chanting "all united against Boko Haram." Many also carried signs or wore t-shirts bearing slogans such as "Our army, our pride."

The march, which was led by Prime Minister Brigi Rafini and various other government officials, was brought to an end with a mass rally in front of the parliament building, where President Mahamadou Issoufou addressed the crowds.

"Boko Haram attacked us and you don't attack Niger with impunity. Today's support for the armed forces must be permanent," Issoufou said.

Absent from Tuesday's march, however, were Niger's opposition parties who have previously organized street protests against Issoufou.

Military raids

Earlier this month, Boko Haram militants, who have carried out a string of massacres and kidnappings, repeatedly struck Diffa in southeastern Niger, killing residents and forcing thousands to flee.

Police said on Monday, however, that more than 160 people suspected of having links to the Islamist terrorist group have been arrested since February 6, when Niger's military first launched raids into the south of the country. According to army figures, Niger's military killed 218 Boko Haram militants in operations around Diffa.

"Nobody attacks Niger with impunity and Boko Haram learned that to its cost on February 6," Issoufou told cheering crowds on Tuesday. "Niger will be the death of Boko Haram."

United against Boko Haram

In neighboring Nigeria, attacks continued this week, however, with the Islamists storming the town of Askira Uba in Borno state.

Niger is currently cooperating with Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Benin to prepare a 8,700-strong force to defeat the Islamist militants.

Last year alone, Boko Haram was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 10,000 people, the group now holds numerous towns and villages in north-eastern Nigeria. The group, which says it wants to establish an Islamist emirate, has also produced videos praising the "Islamic State" militants who have taken over parts of Iraq and Syria.

ksb/msh (Reuters, AFP)