SA govt 'ready' to help combat Boko Haram siege

An estimated 2,000 people in 16 villages and towns were killed last week in Nigeria’s northern bushveld.

FILE: A screengrab taken on November 9, 2014 shows Boko Haram fighters parading on a tank in an unidentified town. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) says terror group Boko Haram cannot be allowed to continue its violent siege in Nigeria where an estimated 2,000 people in 16 villages and towns were killed last week in the country's northern bushveld.

Local authorities say the majority of those killed were women and children who could not outrun the militants.

Boko Haram has terrorised Nigeria's rural and urban population in the north for more than five years, with a spike in the number of attacks in recent weeks.

While South African soldiers aren't involved in the battle yet, government says it is ready to act if called upon.

Dirco's Clayson Monyela says Boko Haram's reign of terror is unacceptable and West African leaders must come up with a comprehensive plan to fight back.

"We can't sit by and just watch people being slaughtered in this manner. We are calling on the international community to rally behind Nigeria."

Monyela says South Africa has not yet been asked to intervene.

"Looking at the number of people that are being killed we believe there has to be something we can do."

It's understood the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is ready to deploy its troops to Africa if asked to do so by the African Union but it's uncertain if such a request will be made at the body's conference in two weeks.

On Sunday, a bomb worn by a 10-year-old girl exploded in a busy market place in the north eastern city of Maiduguri, killing 16 people and injuring more than 20.

"The explosive devices were wrapped around her body and the girl looked no more than 10 years old," a police source said.

Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, lies in the heartland of an insurgency by the Sunni Muslim militant group, and is often hit by bomb attacks.

The northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are bearing the brunt of a five-year-old insurgency by Boko Haram, which wants to revive a medieval caliphate in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and its biggest energy producer.

Last year more than 10,000 people died in the bloodshed.

The Boko Haram revolt is seen as the gravest security threat facing Nigeria, a country of 170 million people, and a serious challenge for President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking re-election in a national election set for 14 February.