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Nigerian soldier says army that would face Boko Haram is ill-equipped, underpaid

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May 11, 2014: A soldier stands guard in front of burnt trucks following an attack by Islamic militants in Gambaru, Nigeria. (AP Photo/Jossy Ola)

A Nigerian soldier has said that the army that would bear the primary burden of hunting down the Islamist group Boko Haram is ill-equipped to do so, and lacks the will to take on the group accused of kidnapping 276 schoolgirls last month. 

The soldier made his claims anonymously to Sky News over the weekend, saying "If my superiors know I have spoken to you, I will be jailed and tortured."

He described how many soldiers are feeling frustrated with the conduct of the war against militants in the northeast of Nigeria, claiming that the terrorist's guns are "past the Nigerian army weapon."

"They give us just AK47s to go into the bush to fight Boko Haram," the soldier said. "Our equipment doesn't work and they give us just two magazines to go into the bush." Two magazines contain approximately 60 bullets. 

The soldier said that many in the Nigerian army have also been discontented by delays in receiving their salaries, sometimes waiting weeks or months to be paid. 

"We feel so bad because we ... are trying, the soldiers are trying our best," the soldier told Sky, "but the civilians don't realize what the Nigerian army is issued with, what they are given to go and fight the Boko Haram."

The soldier's claims correspond with what other news outlets have reported. Other Nigerian soldiers have told The Associated Press that some in their ranks actually fight alongside Boko Haram. Last year, Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan said he suspected that Boko Haram members and sympathizers had infiltrated every level of his government and military, including the Cabinet.

That complicates attempts to share intelligence. The U.S., France and Britain have all sent experts to help find the girls, but French and American officials have expressed concerns about how any information might be used.

Over the weekend, French President Francois Hollande shared the soldier's assesment of Boko Haram, saying that the Islamists had ample funds, highly sophisticated weaponry and advanced training with some of the world's most experienced terrorists.

Hollande hosted a summit with African leaders and intelligence officials from Africa, the U.S., and Europe Saturday with the intention of determining a plan to find and free the girls. 

Hollande said the weapons came from chaotic Libya, and the training took place in Mali before the ouster of its Al Qaeda-linked Islamist leaders. As for the money, Hollande said its origins were murky.

Hollande also emphasized that Boko Haram had clearly established ties with other terror groups in Africa, making it a concern throughout the continent and beyond.

That could provide an opening for U.N. sanctions against the group to freeze its assets and impose travel bans against members. Wendy Sherman, a U.S. diplomat who was at Saturday's talks, said the sanctions could come as soon as next week.

"I can't imagine any country which would not support this designation," she said.

Surveillance jets have joined the search and Hollande left open the possibility that French fighter jets could be deployed.

Boko Haram has offered to exchange the captive girls for jailed insurgents, while threatening otherwise to sell them into slavery.

Officials have said there will be no Western military operation. British officials say Jonathan has ruled out swapping prisoners for the girls.

"There are many ways to bring this horrific situation to a close, but when and if we know where they are then the Nigerians will have to decide how to proceed," Sherman said.

The northeastern region where the girls were kidnapped has suffered five years of increasingly deadly assaults by Boko Haram. Thousands have been killed, including more than 1,500 civilians this year.

Hollande's administration successfully negotiated the release of French citizens held by Boko Haram — most recently a family of seven and a priest — and officials in Paris said France's experience dealing with the group as well as its good relations with the governments concerned were the impetus for the summit.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.