U.N. chief backs regional African force to fight Boko Haram

Soldiers of the Chadian army guard on January 21, 2015, the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. (AFP)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday welcomed an African Union proposal to set up a regional five-nation force of 7,500 troops to fight Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamist militants.

"I welcome the decision of the AU and regional countries to establish an MJTF (Multinational Joint Task Force) against Boko Haram," he told reporters during an African Union summit being held in the Ethiopian capital.

"They have committed unspeakable brutality. Those terrorists should be addressed with a regional and international cooperation," he said.

At least 13,000 people have been killed and more than a million made forced from their homes by Boko Haram violence since 2009.

The Boko Haram uprising has become a regional crisis, with the four directly affected countries -- Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria -- agreeing along with Benin to form a joint force.

The proposed force was backed by the AU's Peace and Security Council on Friday, and the pan-African body is now seeking U.N. Security Council approval plus a "Trust Fund" to pay for it.

Officials at the AU summit said military experts will discuss the force on February 5-7 in Cameroon's capital Yaounde.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43