Nigeria and neighbours to join forces over abducted girls

PARIS- Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan meets with leaders of neighbouring states in Paris on Saturday for talks aimed at forging a common strategy against Islamist militants holding more than 200 schoolgirls.

At a half-day summit hosted by French President Francois Hollande, Jonathan will be pressed to seek much closer cooperation with neighboring Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin in the fight against Boko Haram.

The group, which is waging a deadly campaign to create an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria, has achieved a new level of notoriety since it seized the girls a month ago.

Hollande discussed the conference and the hunt for the girls with US President Barack Obama in a phone call Friday, the White House said.

Wendy Sherman, a senior official at the US Department of State, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague will attend the talks which will also review the preliminary work done by specialist teams sent by Britain, France and the United States to help the Nigerian authorities in their efforts to locate the missing girls.

Experts say the group’s ability to wreak havoc across large swaths of mostly Muslim northern Nigeria is strengthened by the porous nature of the borders in the region, which makes it easier for militants to escape from the security forces and to pick up supplies, most notably arms.

A long-running territorial dispute has soured relations between Nigeria and Cameroon, hampering any steps towards joint action against the militants.

“Boko Haram represents a risk to the stability of every state in the region, and the leaders of these countries have to be aware of that,” said a French diplomat.