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First batch of Nigerian troops off to Mali

Friday - 1/18/2013, 7:45am  ET

Nigeria battalion 1, troops for African led international support mission to Mali are seen before their departure at the peace keeping centre in Jaji, Kaduna, Nigeria, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/)

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- A top Nigerian military officer says that Mali's Islamist extremist rebels trained Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorists.

Lt. Gen. Onyeabo Azubike Ihejerika, speaking at the departure of Nigerian troops for Mali, said that Nigeria is sending troops as part of its efforts to stabilize and bring peace to the region.

About 100 Nigerian soldiers left Thursday from Kaduna airport, the first contingent of the 900 troops that Nigeria has pledged to Mali.

Ihejerika said Nigeria's mission to Mali will complement the efforts to bring about peace in Nigeria. Ihejerika said Nigeria has "evidence that some of the terrorists operating in Nigeria today were trained in Mali." Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamist extremists are blamed for attacks that killed more than 780 people last year.

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