The armies of Niger and Chad on Sunday launched a major ground and air offensive against Islamist extremist group Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, a source from the Niger government said.
The offensive opened up a new front against the Islamists as part of regional efforts to combat them and came after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in an audio message.
“An offensive is underway against Boko Haram,” the source told AFP. “Very early this morning, the troops from Niger and Chad began an offensive against Boko Haram… in the area of Bosso and near to Diffa.”
A resident of Diffa, located in Niger near the Nigerian border, told AFP he saw troops headed toward the frontier early Sunday followed by the sounds of heavy arms fire.
“After some time, the detonations grew further away, an apparent sign that the troops were moving inside Nigeria,” he said.
Privately owned radio station Anfani, based in Diffa, reported more than 200 vehicles, including those equipped with machine guns as well as tanks, ambulances, water tankers and transport trucks, in a convoy moving toward the Nigerian border.
It also reported that aircraft had targeted Boko Haram positions on Saturday and early Sunday.
An aid worker told AFP heavy arms fire was coming from the direction of the Doutchi bridge connecting Niger to Nigeria on Sunday morning.