More than 35 British troops are preparing for deployment to Nigeria where they will take part in training exercises to help the Nigerian army tackle Islamist group Boko Haram, which operates in the country’s northern territories.
The deployment comes a month after Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced a bolstered British effort to combat the extremist group. Boko Haram, usually translated as “Western education is forbidden,” is responsible for a number of terrorist attacks in Nigeria and Cameroon.
On Wednesday the group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Cameroon which killed 10.
In March 2015 the group pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and began using its black and white flag as its symbol. It is also thought to have had links with Al-Qaeda.
In a statement on the deployment, Fallon said Britain is “united” with Nigeria in the common goal of defeating terrorism.
“We stand united with Nigeria in its efforts to defeat the murderous Boko Haram extremists.
“Stepping up our training efforts will help support the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) for crucial counter-insurgency operations,” he added.
During 2015, around 130 UK military personnel were sent to Nigeria. The latest pledge could see that number double to as many as 300.
Last year the troops were involved in a range of operations, including training in “infantry skills, civil-military affairs, media operations, command and leadership, IED-awareness, and support to Nigerian military training schools and establishments,” the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.
In December, the MoD also said 1,000 Nigerian troops had received training for counter-insurgency operations in the north east of the country.
“The training uplift announced by Mr Fallon supports work already carried out by the UK’s resident British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT). BMATT has also grown in size since the government announced last year that the UK would increase its training and capacity building in Nigeria,” it said in a statement.
It is estimated that the conflict caused by Boko Haram in Nigeria has displaced 2.3 million people, of whom 250,000 are estimated to have left the country. In 2014, the extremist group killed more than 6,600 people.
According to local press reports, the Nigerian army killed three high-profile Boko Haram members in the north eastern Nigerian state of Borno during December as part of its counter-offensive.