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VOA Exclusive: Nigeria Brings in Foreign Soldiers To Fight Boko Haram

FILE - Chadian soldiers drive through the streets of Gambaru, Nigeria, Feb. 4, 2015.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nigerian military sources told VOA today that soldiers from South Africa and other countries are in Nigeria fighting Boko Haram. The sources said some of the foreigners are engaging in ground combat and others are flying air missions.

Nigerian government officials confirmed the presence of foreign military personnel but said they were only advisers accompanying military equipment purchased from South Africa, Russia and Ukraine.

In an interview with VOA Wednesday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said that foreigners, whom he described as “technicians,” have been brought in for maintenance and instruction.

But Nigerian soldiers disputed that the foreigners were only present as advisers, telling VOA Thursday that many of the soldiers were participating in actual combat.

While the Jonathan government has openly acknowledged that forces from Chad, Niger, and Cameroon are in Nigeria fighting Boko Haram, it has never acknowledged that soldiers from South Africa and other countries outside the region have joined the fight.

The revelations come as the government is trying to notch battlefield victories ahead of presidential elections later this month. President Jonathan is seeking re-election, and his main opponent, retired General Muhammadu Buhari, has strongly criticized the government’s failure to defeat Boko Haram.