Niger Interior Minister on Wednesday said dozens of Boko Haram fighters have given themselves up to authorities in southern Niger, days after the Islamist group suffered key losses over the border in Nigeria.
Minister Mohamed Bazoum said that 31 young people from Diffa, who were enrolled a few years ago in Boko Haram, decided to surrender.
The fighters arrived in the remote desert town of Diffa in groups and were being held by local authorities.
“I learned that the first who surrendered were not arrested, and I surrendered.
“We expect a pardon from the government so that we can participate in the development of the country and help us get rid of the trauma,’’ a former Boko Haram combatant told newsmen.
In June, tens of thousands of people fled Diffa as Boko Haram swept the region.
However five Niger soldiers were killed by the militants near Diffa in September.
It was not clear what would become of the ex-Boko Haram fighters, but authorities said there was the possibility of reintegrating them back into society.
A security source said a meeting was planned for Wednesday in Diffa to discuss “the conditions of surrender”, without providing further details.
Boko Haram has killed 15,000 people and displaced over 2 million during a seven-year insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state in Nigeria.
In recent years its attacks have spilled into neighbouring Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
Hundreds of Boko Haram fighters surrendered in Chad in October and November as the group ceded territory.
The group controlled an area about the size of Belgium in early 2015 but has since been pushed back by international forces including troops from Niger.