International Force Mulled to Fight Boko Haram in Nigeria

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -

As Islamic terrorists from Boko Haram step up attacks in Nigeria that have led to the slaughter of more civilians, there is increasing talk that international military action, possibly including a multinational force, may be needed to help crush the insurgency in Africa’s most populous country.

The debate has taken on new urgency since Jan. 3, when Boko Haram extremists swept into the northeastern town of Baga in Borno state, overran a military base and, according to witnesses, killed hundreds of civilians in the days that followed. It was one of the most brazen assaults since terrorists kidnapped nearly 300 girls last year, setting off an international outcry.

Amnesty International has released satellite images showing widespread destruction — with about 3,700 structures damaged or destroyed — but the horrifying picture of the attack is incomplete because aid workers, journalists and others cannot reach the Boko Haram-controlled area.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who is running for re-election next month, visited Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, on Thursday in his first trip to the northeast since a state of emergency was imposed in May 2014.

The deployment of a multinational force to fight Boko Haram does not appear imminent and would take considerable political will, in addition to needing a green light from a Nigerian government that has appeared leery at times of perceived foreign meddling. However, a United Nations official said Wednesday there will be a meeting Jan. 20 in Niger’s capital, Niamey, to explore the idea of a regional force to confront Nigeria’s terrorists.