July 30, 2015

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s Defense Ministry has appointed a new general to head the multinational army it is hoped can defeat the Boko Haram Islamic uprising that has killed 20,000 people and driven nearly 2 million from their homes.

Thursday’s appointment comes as the West African nation’s new president promised deeper collaboration with neighboring states in the fight against Islamic extremism. President Muhammadu Buhari headed home Thursday after two days of talks in Cameroon focused on Boko Haram.

Its attacks have spread across Nigeria’s borders and forced tens of thousands of refugees to flee to neighboring states. Chad announced Thursday that its troops killed 13 Boko Haram fighters in attacks this week near Lake Chad, where militants slit the throats of three villagers.

It said the extremists had kidnapped about 30 people, and spirited them away on speed boats. Nigeria’s Defense Ministry said Maj. Gen. Iliyasu Isah Abbah will command the 8,700-strong four-nation army based in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital.

Buhari has said it is a disgrace that Nigeria needs foreign troops on its soil. But he noted before leaving Cameroon that “none of us can succeed alone.” Relations with Cameroon have been strained by a long-simmering border dispute over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula, but the two leaders agreed Thursday that demarcation of their border under U.N. auspices should be completed by year’s end.

Nigeria’s military, poorly equipped with soldiers reporting going into battle without rations and just 30 bullets, last year allowed Boko Haram to take control of a large swath of the northeast. Chadian troops earlier this year forced the militants out of Nigerian border towns. Nigerian troops trained by South African mercenaries drove the extremists from most other towns.

But suicide bombings and village assaults have increased recently. Buhari this month fired all the military’s top commanders. The former chief of defense staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, complained in a retirement address Wednesday that “fifth columnists” in the military and security agencies have leaked information to the insurgents, causing the deaths of many troops ambushed by militants who had advance warning.

Associated Press writer Dany Padire contributed to this report from N’Djamena, Chad.

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