At least 31 Boko Haram fighters have surrendered to authorities in Niger Republic, the West African country’s interior minister Bazoum Mohamed announced Tuesday.
Boko Haram’s seven-year insurgency began in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria but has since spread beyond its borders to Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
The 31 fighters gave up their arms in Diffa, a southeast region, Mohamed said on Twitter, the first time Niger authorities have reported such surrenders.
Boko Haram has been carrying out murderous attacks in Niger since February 2015.
“They came one by one and are currently held in a secure centre,” a security source based in Diffa told AFP, adding that they would return to their families after undergoing a “de-radicalisation” programme.
In January 2015, a senior official in Diffa, said many young people were “increasingly attracted by the offers of Boko Haram”, citing sums of up to 500 euros ($520) per month. Niger, Chad and Nigeria launched simultaneous “sweep operations” against Boko Haram strongholds in July.
In October, the government in Niamey declared the “operations had given decisive results in liberating several localities formerly occupied by Boko Haram.”