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Boko Haram expands combat to Niger border towns

| Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Nigeria's Boko Haram attacked border towns inside Niger for the first time Friday, expanding the number of countries in which the Islamists are fighting to three.

The assault on the town of Bosso was beaten back by troops in fighting that ended about noon, said Yocouba Soumana, governor of the Diffa region that includes Bosso.

Washington strongly condemned the Boko Haram attacks and pledged continuing assistance to fight the terror group.

In recent weeks, Boko Haram has escalated its violent six-year campaign to impose Islamic law in Africa's biggest economy and top oil-producing nation.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials told Reuters that Boko Haram has about 4,000 to 6,000 “hard-core” fighters.

In an assessment of the terror group, whose five-year uprising has included massacres and kidnappings, the officials said they did not believe it poses a major threat to Nigeria's oil fields in the south.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said about 300 schoolgirls kidnapped early last year had been dispersed to multiple locations.

Chad's military has recently taken the lead in preventing Boko Haram from entering countries that neighbor Nigeria. African Union officials have agreed to establish a regional force to fight Boko Haram.

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