United Nations: The UN Security Council has condemned the recent escalation of attacks by the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram and expressed deep concern that its activities are undermining peace and stability in central and west Africa.
The presidential statement approved by all 15 members was the council's first formal reaction yesterday to Boko Haram's activities, which have increased in ferocity and frequency.
The statement was sponsored by Nigeria, which had been reluctant to have the council discuss the Islamic militant group despite being a member of the Security Council.
The Security Council has previously responded to specific terrorist acts by Boko Haram, including the abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok last April, with press statements that do not become part of its official record. This was the first presidential statement, which does become part of the council record and is second in importance to a council resolution.
The statement comes ahead of today's meeting in Niger's capital, Niamey, to discuss the regional response to threat posed by the Islamic militant group, which is expected to include military action.
The council welcomed the meeting and urged regional countries to undertake planning to put into operation a "sustainable, viable and effective" Multinational Joint Task Force to conduct military operations against Boko Haram. It also welcomed last Friday's vote by Chad's National Assembly which authorised Chadian troops and security forces to assist Cameroonian and Nigerian soldiers in the fight against Boko Haram terrorists.
The Security Council demanded that Boko Haram immediately halt all hostilities, disarm and demobilise. And it demanded the immediate release of all those abducted and held captive by the group, including the 276 schoolgirls seized in April.
The council warned that some acts by Boko Haram "may account to crimes against humanity" and stressed that those responsible for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law must be held accountable.
The militant group seeks to impose Islamic Shariah law across Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with about 170 million people, and it is increasing its territory under a self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate. The group has occupied villages about 250 kilometres from the border between Cameroon and Nigeria.
Security Council singled out recent suicide bombings, including one which reportedly used a 10-year-old girl.
It also highlighted Boko Haram's seizure of a key military base at Baga, near the border of Cameroon and Chad. As soldiers fled the base on January 3, Boko Haram went on a killing spree, reportedly drowning many in Lake Chad.