U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the deployment of about 300 soldiers to Cameroon to help in the fight against Islamist militants in the region.
The operation “will be part of a broader regional effort to stop the spread of Boko Haram,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.
The first group of about 90 troops was sent on Monday as part of the mission to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, Obama said in a letter sent to the House of Representatives and the Senate and e-mailed on Wednesday by the White House. The U.S. military personnel in Cameroon won’t have a combat mission and will be armed only for their own protection, Earnest said.
Boko Haram has killed tens of thousands of people mainly in northeastern Nigeria and left towns and villages in ruins during its six-year campaign to impose Islamic law in Africa’s most populous country and largest producer of oil.
Cameroon, along with Niger and Chad, have faced cross-border attacks by Boko Haram, prompting their governments to join forces in a regional offensive to contain the threat.
In the latest attacks in Cameroon, a suicide bomber and one civilian died on Monday while security forces thwarted a second assault, a day after three separate suicide bombings killed nine civilians in the country’s north.
Obama promised Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari during a meeting in Washington in July that he would ramp up support to help the country defeat Boko Haram.