The Canadian Armed Forces have ordered the withdrawal and relocation of Canadian special forces from the town of Diffa in Niger after it came under sustained mortar and ground attacks by Boko Haram militants.
Last week, Boko Haram launched a full-scale assault on Diffa leading to the government declaration of a regional state of emergency and the launch of an army counter-offensive which prompted the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) to relocate its special forces instructors to an unspecified safe place in the interior of the country.
The troops from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) are in Niger to train local army special forces in anti-terrorism operations and advanced skills which include weapons handling, shooting, communication system and mission planning as part of Exercise Flintlock, an annual U.S.-sponsored military exercise which runs with African forces until March 9.
“This was seen as a prudent measure given the current security situation [and] in order to allow participants from every nation to concentrate on getting as much out of Exercise Flintlock 15 training as possible.
“The government of Canada takes the situation with Boko Haram very seriously, the safety of our personnel is a top priority. All members are safe and well-situated in a secure environment,” Canadian military spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier told the Globe and Mail.
He said although the situation around Diffa presents a serious security, no Canadian Special Operations personnel have been involved in combat operations in Niger or anywhere in the region.
However, he said Canada stands to help the government of Niger to cope with the impact of Boko Haram attacks if Ottawa decides to do so.
“We will remain responsive to the situation (in Niger) and support any Government of Canada decision regarding humanitarian assistance or any other required assistance,” Le Bouthillier said.
The CSOR has been a regular contributor to the US Army Exercise Flintlock since 2011. Some of the African armies which have benefited from recent Canadian special forces training missions include Mali, Niger, Senegal, Chad and Kenya.