Damasak (Nigeria), Mar 19: Soldiers from Niger and Chad have retaken a Nigerian town from Boko Haram, another victory in a regional campaign to wrest back control of swaths of northeastern Nigeria from the Islamist militants.
Damasak, just a few miles (kilometeres) over the border from Nigeria, was regained over the weekend, Col Michel Ledru, a spokesman for Niger's army, said yesterday. In the heavy fighting to take back the town, 228 militants were killed and one soldier from Niger died, Ledru said.
An Associated Press photographer in the northeastern town said it was largely deserted yesterday, except for 2,000 troops from Niger and Chad and a handful of civilians. Four people, including an old man, came onto the street to wave at a convoy of troops as it passed.
But, there were still signs of the town's occupation by the militants. Walls were covered in their writings and the extremists' black and white flag still flew above some buildings.
A Volkswagen Golf and Toyota Land Cruisers, riddled with bullets, were abandoned in the streets. Boko Haram has been fighting a six-year insurgency to create an Islamic state and has taken control of large parts of Nigeria's northeast in the past year.
It became notorious internationally after kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls last April. But in recent months, Nigeria has stepped up its campaign against the militants, and, with the help of a regional force that includes Niger and Chad, it has begun to retake a series of towns.