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Attack in Nigeria kills 29 as African, French leaders reach deal on fighting Boko Haram

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Suspected Boko Haram militants attacked a market in northeastern Nigeria, killing 29 people, as African nations and France agreed on a joint plan to fight the Islamist group.

The deaths occurred today in northeast Ngurosoye village in the Bama region, said Senator Ahmed Zanna, who represents the area.

Boko Haram, which means “western education is a sin” in the Hausa language, has conducted a violent campaign since 2009 to impose Islamic law in Africa’s top oil producer.

“We’ve been able to identify ties that link Boko Haram with all the terrorist organizations that are active in Africa,” French President Francois Hollande told a televised press conference in Paris today after meeting his Nigerian counterpart Goodluck Jonathan and leaders from Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

The countries agreed to coordinate intelligence, border surveillance and the need for military presence to fight the terrorist group. “We know the menace, it’s grave, it’s dangerous for the region, for Africa and therefore for Europe,” Hollande said.

Today’s agreement won’t require France to deploy more military means, he said. The country has military personnel, drones and Rafale fighter jets stationed in Niger, and troops in Mali and the Central African Republic.

The United States and Britain have sent teams to Nigeria to help the government find more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the militants more than a month ago from the northeastern town of Chibok. The United States is conducting manned surveillance flights and using a drone to help the search, which is taking place as suspected Boko Haram militants killed a soldier and kidnapped 10 workers from China in a May 16 attack on a camp run by a Chinese engineering company in Cameroon.

Jonathan, 56, has faced criticism at home and abroad for failing to react quickly to Boko Haram’s April 14 abduction, the same day the sect mounted the worst ever bomb attack in the capital, Abuja, when a car bomb killed at least 75 people. There have been almost daily protests in Nigerian cities demanding that Jonathan’s government act to rescue the students.

Jonathan has asked parliament to extend a year-old state of emergency in three northeastern states where Boko Haram has focused its attacks. Nigeria’s House of Representatives today approved a six-month extension, and the Senate is expected to vote on it next week.

“We all collectively agree that we will work together,” Jonathan said after the Paris meeting. “Nigeria has 20,000 troops in the northeast part of the country where we have these terrorists.”

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