- President Jonathan told Voice of America that members of the Boko Haram had travelled to the Middle East to be trained by Islamist State militants
- He says the group will be wiped out of Borno State in three weeks
- President Jonathan says the military counter-terrorism operation in the north-east will be sustained until the Boko Haram members in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe are wiped out
- He says foreign technicians are in Nigeria to teach the troops how to use the newly acquired arms
In an interview with Voice of America (VOA) on Wednesday, President Jonathan said he was aware that some members of the Boko Haram sect had travelled to the Middle East for training with Islamic State militants.
Jonathan declined to name the countries where the fighters were allegedly trained. But he told VOA that he had long suspected Boko Haram of having alliances with international extremist groups.
He said the military was doing its best to push the terrorists out of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa States.
“So we know the links are there. But even now, we may not know the degree of linkages as to how much funds are coming in from them, the kind of volume of weapons coming in from them, the nationalities coming from them,” Jonathan said.
“But the training, because some of the Boko Haram members go to have their training in the ISIS camp and come back.”
President Jonathan responded to criticisms that foreign troops were not allowed to push into Boko Haram strongholds deep in Nigerian territory. He said Cameroon previously denied Nigeria permission to pursue Boko Haram into its territory, but stressed that restrictions on foreign troops were matters of coordination.
“I think the idea is that — look, for any major aggression, we should know. Where possible, let some Nigerian soldiers also be with you,” the President said.
Improved intelligence gathering
He also said that foreign technicians were present in the north-east to teach Nigerian troops how to use the new weapons, since there was not time to train the troops before they deployed.
“So we now have this technical people who are trainers and technicians, who are to train our people on how to use them, and technicians that help the maintenance, at the same time training our people how to maintain these equipment,” Jonathan said.
He said two unnamed companies were involved in the training but declined to offer nationalities or numbers of the trainers.
Jonathan dismissed the suggestion that Boko Haram’s insurgency has come to define his time in office.
“Yes, it’s a major security issue, it’s the number one security issue we have as a nation. But definitely you cannot define us by Boko Haram,” he said.
As the multinational offensive continues, Jonathan predicted that the north-eastern states of Yobe and Adamawa would be cleared of Boko Haram territory before the middle of next week. He said he hopes neighbouring Borno State, where the group started, will be cleared in the next three weeks.
He however said he expects Boko Haram to continue bombing markets and bus stops.
President Jonathan said that the government had put strategies in place to improve intelligence gathering as well as job and educational prospects in the north-east as a long-term strategy to eliminate the group.