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West African Countries Unite to Declare War on Boko Haram

French President Francois Hollande pose for a familly phot with west African leaders in ParisCountries neighboring Nigeria are ready to wage war against the Nigeria-based, al-Qaeda-linked group Boko Haram, Chad’s president says.

Idriss Deby made the statement after a summit in Paris on Saturday that also included Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and representatives from West African countries Cameroon, Benin and Niger plus the United States, the European Union, Britain and France.

“There is determination to tackle this situation head on … to launch a war, a total war on Boko Haram,” Deby said after the meeting, which was aimed at finding a common strategy to fight the armed group.

French President Francois Hollande had called the summit following the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria last month.

The leaders who attended the meeting agreed on tightened border controls and shared intelligence and planned to take a collaborative approach when fighting the armed group.

Jonathan said Boko Haram had evolved from a small group to being part of the broader al-Qaeda organization.

“Boko Haram is no longer the local terror group with some regional sentiment that started in Nigeria in 2002 to 2009,” Jonathan said.

“From 2009 to date, it has changed and is operating clearly as an al-Qaeda organization. It can better be described as an al-Qaeda in West and Central Africa.”

Hollande said Boko Haram had clearly established ties with other “terror” groups in Africa, making it a problem throughout the continent and beyond.

“The message we want to send is that we know the threat. It is serious. It is serious for the region, for Africa and so for Europe. We have deployed our military and intelligence system to find these young girls,” Hollande said.

Jonathan said West African countries need to take a collaborative approach to fight Boko Haram.

“Without West African countries coming together, we will not be able to crush these terrorists,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from the Nigerian capital of Abuja, said there had been little collaboration between African nations in the fight against the armed group so far.

“There hasn’t been much cooperation at the moment, and this is maybe one of the reasons why Boko Haram has managed to flourish across the Nigerian border,” Adow said. “The commitment that has been given by Cameroon, Chad, Niger and also Benin will go a long way in the fight against Boko Haram.”

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