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Africa

France's Hollande attends Nigeria's Boko Haram summit

media French President François Hollande is met by Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama on arrival in Abuja on Friday Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

French President François Hollande is the only non-African head of state to attend a summit on the Boko Haram armed Islamist group in Nigeria on Saturday. France organised the first summit, which involved Nigeria and its French-speaking neighbours, in Paris in 2014.

Hollande arrived in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Friday after a short visit to the Central African Republic.

There he announced the end of the French military mission Sangaris, which started in December 2013, declaring it "perfectly successful", and promised "no impunity" in the cases of alleged sexual abuse against French soldiers stationed there.

Summit discusses Boko Haram fight

In Nigeria he met President Muhammadu Buhari and attended the security summit, which discussed the progress of military operations against Boko Haram and the "rapid resolution of the humanitarian crisis" in the north-east of Nigeria, where it is based.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond were also present, along with the heads of state of Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger and delegations from the European Union and the west and central African economic groupings, Ecowas and Eccas.

Last year Boko Haram declared its allegiance to the Islamic State armed group and Nigerian fighters have been spotted in Libya and the Sahel, where groups close to the Al-Qaeda network operate.

An 8,500-strong multinational force, made up of troops from Nigeria and neighbouring countries, has been fighting the group since last July.

France key to Nigeria's relations with neighbours 

France and Nigeria recently signed an agreement on closer military cooperation, including intelligence sharing, and Paris plays a key role in Abuja's sometimes-difficult relations with its neighbours, which are former French colonies.

France has a military base in Chad, from which it launches anti-jihadist operations in the Sahel.

After a series of military successes since Buhari's election last year, the president has declared in "technically" defeated but suicide bombings continue and its members are still hiding out on the Sambisa forest.

Blinken on Friday told the press that, although the group has been weakened, it has not yet been destroyed. 

UN concerned by Boko Haram threat 

The UN Security Council on Friday said the talks should help develop "a comprehensive strategy to address the governance, security, development, socioeconomic and humanitarian dimensions of the crisis".

But it also expressed "deep concern" at Boko Haram's threat to security in west and central Africa and "alarm at ... linkages with the Islamic State" group in Syria and Iraq.

The summit was to address the humanitarian effects of the conflict, in which some 20,000 people have died and 2.6 million fled their homes since 2009.

Representatives of Borno State, which has been worst hit by the violence, have asked for 5.1 billion euros for reconstruction of homes and infrastructure. 

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