FOREIGN Secretary William Hague has urged West African nations to come together to defeat the Islamist terror group responsible for the kidnap of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria.
Attending international talks in Paris to discuss the crisis, Mr Hague said countries in the region needed to set aside their differences to develop a long-term strategy to end Boko Haram’s reign of terror.
“This is one sickening and terrible incident but they continue almost every day to commit terrorist attacks and atrocities of other kinds, so they have to be defeated in the region,” he said.
“That requires a better regional strategy among the African countries, but with our support.”
The meeting, hosted by President Francois Hollande, brings together the presidents of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin with representatives from France, the UK, US and the European Union.
Mr Hague said the first step should be for the countries in the region to establish a joint intelligence “fusion cell” to pool information in the search for the missing girls as well conducting joint patrols and operations.
“There are many borders here and they are porous borders. We need all of those countries to be bringing together their intelligence and information,” he said.
“This is very relevant to finding the schoolgirls, not just to the long-term defeat of Boko Haram.”
Britain has already offered to send an RAF surveillance aircraft and to embed a military team at Nigeria headquarters to advise on the search operation.
UK experts are already working with a US team in the country trying to establish where the girls are being held.
However, Mr Hague said that in the long term, the UK and other countries would need to do more to support development in in the areas where Boko Haram is active.
“More will need to be done in the north of Nigeria in terms of clean water, healthcare, education and so on,” he said.