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Australian gov't confirms involvement in training African soldiers in fight against Boko Haram

Xinhua, May 16, 2017 Adjust font size:

The Australian government has on Tuesday confirmed that a small contingent of special operations solders worked in the African nation of Niger in February and March, training local soldiers in the fight against radical Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

U.S. military in March confirmed that their forces were undertaking a training program in Niger, but Australia's defence force only conceded that Australian special forces were also involved in the training of local soldiers on Tuesday, when quizzed by local media.

The three-week long exercise, known as Flintlock, began on Feb. 27 at a military camp near Diffa, a town in Niger close to the border of Nigeria, a region known to be threatened by the extremist Boko Haram group.

A spokesperson from Australia's Defence Department told News Corp that soldiers were involved in a training program which was "part of our regular international training engagements."

"Such engagements allow the participants to broaden their professional experience and knowledge," the spokesperson told News Corp on Tuesday.

The Australian government had not previously announced the presence of Australian troops in the region despite a media release by the U.S. military in March, which said its forces were "regionally aligned to North and West Africa."

"Along with special operations from Australia, Belgium and Canada, (the 3rd Special Forces Group Airborne) make up the ­western partner force in Niger for Flintlock 2017," the statement said at the time.

"Over three weeks, the partner nations will work together and exchange tactical movement techniques, advanced marksmanship and medical training."

Boko Haram is well known for the kidnapping of more than 250 girls from Chibok, a town in Nigeria's northeast. It is an Islamic militant group intent on creating an Islamic state in Central Africa. Endit