Benin Pledges 800 Troops For Boko Haram

COTONOU, Benin (AP) -- Benin's president has vowed to contribute 800 troops to a regional force intended to combat the Nigeria-based Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

Thomas Boni Yayi made the announcement Saturday during a visit from Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari that coincided with Benin's independence anniversary.

"This is an opportunity for Benin to express solidary with countries on the front line against the Islamic sect, Boko Haram. This solidary will result in the sending of a contingent of 800 men from Benin's army," Boni Yayi said.

Deployment of the regional force has been delayed for lack of funds. At a meeting in Cameroon in February, Nigeria and a group of neighboring countries that also includes Chad, Cameroon and Niger agreed to deploy around 8,700 troops, with Benin pledging 250.

The 6-year-old uprising has killed 20,000 people and driven nearly 20 million from their homes. Multinational troops earlier this year forced the extremists out of towns they had held, but Nigerian politicians now say Boko Haram is again seizing territory.

The uprising has taken on a regional dimension this year with regular attacks in Niger, Cameroon and Chad. Boko Haram became an affiliate of the Islamic State group earlier this year.

Last week Buhari also visited Cameroon in a bid to bolster support for the regional force. The trip came eight weeks after he visited Niger and Chad.