Niger leader heads to France for summit on Boko Haram
By Sidi Ould Abdel-Malek, Friday, May 16, 2014
NIAMEY – Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou on Friday headed to France to attend a regional summit hosted by French President Francois Hollande to discuss means of combating the dreaded Nigeria-based Boko Haram group.
Issoufou will be accompanied by Defense Minister Karidjo Mahamadou and Mohamed Bazoum, minister of foreign affairs, cooperation, African integration and Nigeriens abroad, Niger's official news agency reported.
The summit will bring together leaders from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Benin and France, in addition to Niger, to look into means of ending the Boko Haram menace following the group's abduction last month of scores of high school girls from the town of Chibok in Borno State.
On April 14, Boko Haram militants stormed a school in Chibok, located on the fringes of the Sambisa Forest, loading scores of schoolgirls onto trucks before driving away unchallenged.
The exact number of abducted schoolgirls still remains dogged by controversy.
In a 17-minute video released Monday, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau offered to exchange the kidnapped girls for Boko Haram militants held by Nigerian authorities.
At least four countries, including the U.S. and Britain, are currently assisting in search and rescue efforts.
Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language, first emerged in the early 2000s preaching against government misrule and corruption.
The group later became violent, however, after the death of its leader in 2009 while in police custody.
In the five years since, the shadowy sect has been blamed for numerous attacks – on places of worship and government institutions – and thousands of deaths.
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