Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Boko Haram Trained in Mali - Army Chief

. Nigeria begins troops deployment

. Dangiwa: Mali crisis threat to North

Some of the terrorists operating in Nigeria were trained in Mali, Chief of Army Staff Lt-General Azubuike Ihejirika revealed in Kaduna yesterday.

He spoke in an interview with reporters after he addressed Nigerian soldiers headed for Mali at the Jaji military base near Kaduna.

The Nigerian troops will join the African International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA), where rebels have seized nearly half of the country trying to enforce Islamic law.

"We have evidence that some of the terrorists operating in Nigeria were trained in Mali. As at yesterday, we are aware of the influx of some chaps trained in Mali into the country," he said, apparently referring to the Boko Haram sect which has waged a campaign of violence in parts of the North.

Ihejirika said by being part of the intervention force in Mali, Nigeria will also be enhancing its own security objective.

"Nigeria will not only be supporting the resolution of the international community, but also enhancing its own security and that of its immediate neighbours by undertaking in this operation," he said.

"What we are going into could be described as peace enforcement that is to bring peace with the use of force."

He assured the soldiers that adequate provision for their welfare had been made. Previously, soldiers on peace keeping mission abroad had to go on protest before their duty allowances were paid.

But the Army chief assured yesterday: "We have solved this problem some years back by ensuring that every soldier is paid through the bank so before soldiers move for mission, they open accounts in which a certain percentage of their allowances will be paid into while they are given some stipends. So the issue of welfare will not arise."

The Army chief urged the 900 soldiers to be resolute, dedicated and disciplined as they are deployed into Mali stressing that they must remember that the rules of engagement are designed to guide them and not to restrict them.

"The Nigerian Army will not entertain any circumstance that would lead to any of you being disarmed because the four weeks pre-deployment training you underwent at the center was designed to refresh, polish and add some knowledge and expertise in your various fields," he said.

In his remarks, the Commandant of the Nigerian Army Peace Keeping Center (NAPKC), Major-General John Zaruwa, said the troops from the 333 battalion underwent the rudiments of lane training including patrolling, cordon and search, anti ambush drills, base camp security, VIP protection and convoy movements.

A C30 cargo plane airlifted 200 soldiers from the Kaduna International Airport to Mali yesterday, while the remaining 700 will be airlifted in batches.

Also yesterday in Port Harcourt, a Nigerian Air Force contingent left aboard a G222 carrier from the international airport to Mali.

In his address to the contingent, Chief of Air Staff Air Marshall Alex Badah warned the officers and men against tarnishing the image of Nigeria while on international assignment.

Information Minister Labaran Maku also witnessed the airlift, saying he was confident Nigerian troops will make the country proud.

In Kaduna yesterday, retired Colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar said it was a good decision for the Federal Government to send troops to Mali because the crisis there poses a serious challenge to the North.

"The deployment of the troops by the Federal Government was a good decision because Mali shares border with seven countries including our neighbour Niger Republic, and once the rebels or militants access Niger, the Northern part of Nigeria is in trouble and as such we must do everything to assist the Malian government," Umar told Daily Trust.

"The fact that we are facing insecurity challenges across the country does not mean we should not play our role in the continent, especially when the issue on ground is a threat to us also. In fact, the problem of Mali is a threat to all West Africa countries," he added.

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