'Mali-trained militants in Nigeria'

Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - Nigeria has revealed the presence in the country of terrorists trained in Mali, the northern part of which is in the hands of armed Islamist groups who seized it last year.

The influx of the terrorists may have heightened the activities of the Nigerian Islamic sect  Boko Haram, which has been more active lately. The sect has killed over 3,000 people in gun and bomb attacks in northern Nigeria since 2009.

Nigeria has started the deployment of over a battalion of troops to Mali to participate in the African-led International Support Mission for Mali (AFISMA), which is battling alongside Malian and French troops to flush the Islamists out of northern Mali.

“Aware of the influx of some chaps trained in Mali into the country...Nigeria will not only be supporting the resolution of the international community, it will be enhancing its own security and that of its immediate neighbours by undertaking this operation,” Nigeria's Army Chief, Lt.-Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, said in the northern city of Kaduna Thursday.

“What we are going into could be described as peace enforcement; that is, to bring peace with the use of force. And as to whether the operations will be conventional or insurgency, the troops should have a mixture of both because of the character of the rebels in the area,” said Gen. Ihejirika, who was in Kaduna to inspect the troops being trained at the Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Centre (NAPKC).

The first batch of 190 soldiers have already been deployed to Mali, while others will be airlifted in phases.

Though defence officials said Nigeria would deploy 900 troops, the Senate Thursday approved the deployment of 1,200 troops as requested by President Goodluck Jonathan, who said they are being sent on a ''limited combat duty''.

In addition to the troops, Nigeria is also deploying Alpha and F7 war planes to Mali.

On Thursday, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) sent an advanced team of 66 officers and men to Mali.

NAF Spokesman Air Commodore Yusuf Anas told journalists Thursday that the officers and men were ferried by the Airforce G222 Transport Aircraft, after they were addressed by the Chief of Air Staff (COAS), Air Marshal Alex Badeh, in the southern city of Port Harcourt where they
were airlifted from.
-0- PANA SEG 18Jan2013

18 january 2013 09:37:52

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