Nigeria, France join forces to fight Boko Haram

Nigeria and France on Thursday, April 28 signed an agreement on closer military cooperation, including intelligence sharing, to strengthen the fight against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region, AFP reports.

Nigerian Defense Minister Mansur Dan Ali said the agreement was evidence of a "growing partnership" between Abuja and Paris, as he met his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in the capital.

France has provided satellite images and surveillance footage from Rafale fighter jets based in Chad's capital, N'Djamena, which have flown over the main conflict area in northeast Nigeria.

Some 2,000 surveillance images have been shared and Nigerians have also been trained by French military intelligence in how to interpret them, French officials indicated.

Boko Haram, whose insurgency has killed some 20,000 in Nigeria since 2009, has been pushed out of captured territory over the past year, leading to more cross-border attacks.

Le Drian for his part said France was primarily concerned with "the common fight against terrorism and particularly against Boko Haram."

Maritime security is also a key factor in cooperation, he added, with incidences of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea off Nigeria's oil-rich south increasing sharply since the turn of the year, AFP says.

Both armies signed an operational cooperation document detailing 28 areas to be tackled before the end of the year, including training against improvised explosives and combat rescue.

Cross-border military exercises and joint maritime operations with other countries are also included.

A regional security summit is scheduled to take place in Abuja on May 14 with French President Francois Hollande in attendance, as well as representatives from Britain and the United States.