NIGERIA'S president has ordered "a full-scale operation" against Boko Haram Islamist militants and sought to reassure the parents of 219 schoolgirls being held by the group that their children would eventually be freed.

Speaking on Nigeria's Democracy Day, Goodluck Jonathan said he had ­authorised security forces to use any means necessary under the law to ensure that Boko Haram, which operates in the country's northeast, is defeated.

"I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our ­political stability, by waging a total war against terrorism," Mr Jonathan said in a TV speech.

Loading article content

It was not immediately clear what such an offensive could entail given that the northeast of the country has been under a state of emergency and a full scale military operation for a year. Nigerian forces are also hugely overstretched.

The phrase "total war", however, was also used by Chad's President Idriss Deby following a meeting of ­Nigeria's neighbours in Paris in mid-May.