The U.S. has pledged its support for Nigerian security forces as they fight Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group blamed for hundreds of deaths this year alone, the AFP reports.
"I think the United States wants to support Nigeria in every way that is appropriate from Nigeria's point of view, to deal with any threat here in this country," U.S. Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said Monday, according to AFP.
Sherman’s 24-hour visits to Nigeria comes after Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin,” was accused of attacking as many as 12 primary and secondary schools in Nigeria’s northeast, forcing thousands of children to stay home from school, Nigeria’s Daily Trust reports.
UPI reports that Boko Haram took credit for some of the attacks, saying government security forces had been raiding Islamic schools in the country’s mostly-Muslim north.
Three suspected Boko Haram members were killed Monday night, while attempting to burn down a secular school in the northern city of Maiduguri, military spokesman Lt. Col. Hassan Ifijeh Mohammed told the AP. He said two other suspected militants were arrested.
A Boko Haram spokesperson, who uses the pseudonym Abul Qaqa, said the militant killed paid the "ultimate sacrifice," according to the AP. The spokesperson said three other members were killed while trying to put together a bomb last week.
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Boko Haram has killed more than 1,000 people since it began its insurgency against the Nigerian government in 2009. The sect says it wants to implement Islamic law in Nigeria, and demands its members be released from prison.
Originally the group, which claims Al Qaeda ties, targeted security forces. In recent months, Boko Haram has expanded operations, killing more than 300 so far this year, including a coordinated bombing in Nigeria’s second largest city, Kano, which left almost 200 people dead.
Last month, Comfort Ero, an Africa expert from the International Crisis Group, said Boko Haram is a threat to stability in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil exporter and the fifth largest supplier of oil to the U.S. She urged the government to increase social services to Nigeria’s troubled north.
“If the state–the Nigerian state itself–is more present to the north, if it is able to provide dividends of democracy, social benefits, and employment, the north would be less susceptible to groups like Boko Haram,” she said in an interview on the Crisis Group website.
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