On Tuesday, Niger declared a 15-day state of emergency in the border region of Diffa after several attacks carried out by Nigerian-based militant group Boko Haram.
The declaration of a state of emergency effectively provides troops operating in the region new powers to search homes without a warrant and to impose a curfew. In the wake of Boko Haram attacks on the border town of Diffa over the weekend, officials have also imposed an overnight curfew and have banned the use of motorcycles, a common mode of transport, in order to prevent infiltration by Boko Haram militants. The curfew will force residents to stay indoors between 20:00 and 06:00 local time (19:00 and 05:00 GMT). On the grounds sources have reported that thousands of residents are fleeing the town of Diffa over fears that the militants will launch further attacks. Some have travelled 500 km (310 miles) to Zinder city, with one eyewitness reporting that about 200 refugees arrived in Zinder on Tuesday in a single convoy. The nearby border town of Bosso was attacked on Friday.
In recent weeks, Boko Haram has intensified its campaign against neighbouring states, carrying out attacks and kidnappings in Cameroon. On Monday, suspected Boko Haram militants hijacked a bus in northern Cameroon, abducting at least 20 people. On the ground sources reported that the militants reportedly seized a bus carrying market-goers and drove it towards the border with Nigeria. The bus was seized near the border area of Koza and driven towards the Nigerian border, 18 kilometres (11 miles) away.
During the early morning hours Wednesday, Boko Haram militants attacked Chadian troops stationed in a Nigerian border town. According to a Chadian military source, “the Boko Haram elements wanted to surprise us by attacking at about 4 am (0300 GMT). We were aware about it from the day before and were prepared.” The attack occurred in the town of Gamboru, which is located on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, where Chadian troops, who are deployed to help in the complex regional battle against Boko Haram, have taken up positions. According to the source, Boko Haram militants “…arrived with 14 vehicles and two armoured vehicles. We repulsed them and they retreated,” adding “a helicopter was brought in to join the pursuit and destroy them.”
Last week, Nigeria and its neighbours, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, agreed to launch a 8,750 regional force, composed of troops, police and civilians, for a wider African Union-backed force against Boko Haram. On Monday, Niger’s parliament voted to deploy troops to Nigeria to join the fight against Boko Haram. MP’s have authorized the deployment of 750 soldiers with a regional force that is battling the militant group. On going Boko Haram attacks and the region’s military operations to gain back occupied territory have forced Nigeria to postpone its presidential and parliamentary elections from 14 February to 28 march.