Elite forces from the US, Britain and other western countries have begun training African Union troops in Chad.
Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Benin have joined forces in a new coalition with the goal of wiping out Boko Haram.
The military exercises are being billed a warm-up for an offensive against the insurgent group, which has killed thousands in a six-year war in and around northern Nigeria.
Efforts are intensifying to capture the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau. The five-nation alliance claims it successfully beat back Boko Haram militants in the strategically-positioned border town of Baga, north east Nigeria, on Saturday (February 21).
Captain Mahmat Madaga was optimistic about the Union’s mission.
“Boko Haram is a militia made up of civilians,” he said. “They don’t have the same experience we have. We are a well-organised army, they cannot withstand us.”
Meanwhile, on a visit to Niger – one of the nations affected by the spillover of violence from the conflict – French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius pledged support for the Union’s bid to win the backing of the UN Security Council.