LAGOS, Nigeria – Nigeria on Wednesday named one of its generals to take over the multinational force fighting Boko Haram, suggesting a desire by the country's newly elected president to take the lead in the war against the Islamic extremists.
The Nigerian army "remains a virile fighting force ... capable of routing Boko Haram," Buhari declared Wednesday on a visit to Niger, which is contributing troops and is hosting hundreds of thousands of Nigerian refugees from the insurgent violence.
Maj. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai has already assumed his new duties commanding troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, according to the Ministry of Defense. Buratai was a director at Defense Headquarters and has served as the commandant of the Nigerian Army School of Infantry.
The appointment comes on President Muhammadu Buhari's fourth day in office and the day before he is scheduled to visit N'Djamena, the Chadian capital that is the force's headquarters.
Before his election, Buhari, a retired major general who was briefly a military dictator in the 1980s, had said the presence of foreign troops in Nigeria was "a national disgrace."
He has promised to cooperate fully with neighbors Chad and Niger, which had complained that a lack of cooperation was hampering the war.
The multinational army, with battle-hardened Chadian troops taking the lead, this year drove Boko Haram from northeastern towns where they had declared an Islamic caliphate.
But the Chadian troops have had to several times retake some Nigerian towns seized back from Boko Haram because Nigerian troops did not arrive to secure them.
Despite the setbacks, the insurgents continue hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombings from a northeastern forest stronghold.
Buhari said his visits to Chad and Niger are to seek even more support to bring an end to the extremist group's atrocities.
Some 13,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million driven from their homes in the nearly 6-year-old Islamic uprising that spilled over Nigeria's northeastern borders.