The Chadian government announced on Monday that officials have declared a state of emergency in the Lake Chad region in the wake of a series of raids and suicide bombings in the area carried out by Boko Haram insurgents.
According to Chad’s Communications Minister Hassan Sylla Bakari, the order, which will come into effect immediately, will grant authorities new powers to search and monitor residents in the region.
While Chad has been instrumental in forcing Boko Haram earlier this year to cede territory in northeastern Nigeria, which effectively undermined the militant group’s six-year campaign to carve out a Nigerian caliphate, ongoing military operations have forced insurgents out of their strongholds and into the border regions around Lake Chad, where they have continued to launch deadly raids and attacks. On Sunday, at least three people were killed in a Chadian village while three Nigerian refugees were killed on Monday in northern Cameroon.
Chad has not implemented a state of emergency since a series of rebellions in the 2000s, which sprang from its volatile east. Neighbouring Niger has also implemented a three-month state of emergency in its border region of Diffa, which in recent months has also been impacted by Boko Haram violence.
On Monday, five Chadian police officers and six Islamists were killed after suspected Boko Haram militants blew themselves up during a police raid on a safe house in the capital, N’Djamena.
Residents in the capital city reported the first explosion in the Dinguesso neighborhood of N’Djamena, with the second blast occurring minutes later. According to Interior Minister Abderahim Bireme Hamid, the blasts struck after security forces arrested the alleged “brain” behind Boko Haram operations in Chad and in neighboring northern Cameroon. Bireme Hamid disclosed that police found “a lot of documents” and during questioning, one of those held revealed where the group made homemade bombs. In a follow-up search, three suicide vests were also found. The minister reported that as soon as the door of the house was opened “and they saw one of their arrested members, the five Boko Haram blew themselves up…We regret to day that five officers died. And after a search we found the body of another Boko Haram member,” adding that three more police officers sustained injuries in the attack. The latest attack follows the 15 June double suicide bombing, which has been blamed on the Nigerian-based militants. That attack killed at least 33 people in N’Djamena, in what is the deadliest attack to occur in the city.
Earlier on Monday, officials in Chad arrested 60 people in relation to an attack that occurred earlier this month in the capital city. Chad’s chief prosecutor announced “the dismantling (of a Boko Haram cell) and the arrest of 60 people” as part of an inquiry into the suicide bombings that occurred last week. According to prosecutor Alghassim Khamis, “a terrorist cell was identified and taken down. Sixty people were detained,” including Nigerians, Chadians, Cameroonians and Malians. Khamis further disclosed that one of three people behind the 15 June attacks – all of whom were killed by security forces – had been positively identified, while the identify of the two others was being checked, adding “the debris left by the suicide bombers enabled us to determine that the terrorists were wearing specially-made explosive vests in black fabric… Fragments (of the bombs) collected at the scenes of the attacks are identical.” Khamis further disclosed that “the toll for this double attack is 38 dead today, including the three suicide bombers, and 81 wounded and released and 20 wounded still admitted to the hospital,” adding that one person remains in serious condition. Khamis has indicated that “the information received shows that this attack was well planned.”
On Monday, officials in neighboring Chad reported that at least 23 people have been killed and more than 100 injured in suicide attacks carried out in the capital N’Djamena.
Eyewitnesses reported that attackers on motorcycles blew themselves up outside two police buildings. According to witnesses, one of the bombers on a motorcycle blew himself up after security officers fired at him outside a building where the national police chief is based while the second explosion went off at the headquarters of the national police academy.
The Chadian government has blamed the attacks on Nigerian-based Boko Haram, however the militant group has not commented. Hours after the attack, Communications Minister Hassan Sylla Bakara stated that Boko Haram had “made a mistake targeting Chad,” and that the group would be “neutralized.” The Communications Minister condemned the “appalling and barbaric attack,” stating that it “would not diminish Chad’s determination and commitment to fighting terrorism.” The minister added that all four of the attackers had been killed. On the ground sources have reported that in the wake of the attack, large numbers of troops have been deployed on the streets of the capital and a ban has been imposed on cards with tinted windows.
Chadian forces have played a key role in not only helping Nigeria battle Boko Haram, but also in the fight against other jihadist groups in the region. The Central African nation has been a long-standing adversary of jihadists, with the country’s president Idriss Deby Itno committing troops to combating militants in the region. They first joined French forces in 2013 to counter the advance of jihadists who had occupied the northern regions of Mali the previous year. In August 2014, France reorganized its military presence in the region by launching Operation Barkhane, which aims to fighting terrorism in Africa’s Sahel region. The force is headquartered in the Chadian capital, where France already has a large military base. In February this year, Chad launched a ground offensive in neighboring Nigeria, effectively leading the fight against the militant group. According to military sources, Chad has committed around 5,000 soldiers to this operation. N’Djamena will also host the headquarters of the joint military force that was created on 11 June by Chad, Cameroon, Benin, Niger and Nigeria against Boko Haram.
While the group has never targeted N’Djamena before, this attack should not come as a huge surprise, given the country’s role in fighting the insurgency. Boko Haram has previously criticized and taunted Chadian President Idriss Deby in its videos. In a statement United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the bombings and praised Chad’s “courageous role” in fighting Boko Haram.
As President Muhammadu Buhari marked his first week in office, the death toll from two blasts in northeastern Nigeria climbed to 35 on Friday, raising the total number killed in suspected Boko Haram attacks to 82.
This week’s violence comes as President Buhari embarked on his first foreign trip since taking office, visiting neighbouring Chad and Niger, which along with Cameroon, are Nigeria’s key allies in the battle against Boko Haram’s on going uprising. During his trip, Buhari urged closer regional security cooperation, while thanking troops from Nigeria’s neighbours for their efforts to date. The newly elected Nigerian president has vowed to crush the militant group, however last weeks spate of bombings has highlighted the severity of the challenge.
Two blasts rocked northeastern Nigeria on Thursday, killing at least six people, just hours before President Muhammadu Buhari urged closer regional cooperation to defeat Boko Haram. According to officials, the first explosion occurred in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, which has been hit by a spate of bombings in recent days. The incident occurred when a truck carrying firewood rammed into a checkpoint outside a military barracks. Police and locals have reported that at least four soldiers were killed in this explosion, which one resident called a “suicide attack.” The second blast occurred at a busy market in Yola, the capital of neighbouring Adamawa state. At least two people were killed in the second incident and some 30 others were injured. While there was no claim of responsibility, both incidents will likely be blamed on Boko Haram. Just hours before these latest attacks, President Buhari arrived in Chad’s capital N’Djamena, for talks with his counterpart Idriss Deby on tackling Boko Haram. According to a statement from the office of the Chadian President, Deby has “reaffirmed Chad’s involvement and availability” to work with Nigeria.
At least eleven people were killed Wednesday in an explosion in Maiduguri. According to Danlami Ajaokuta, a civilian vigilante assisting that military against Boko Haram in the Baga Road area, “we have so far recovered six dead bodies. We are still working at the scene, so the casualties may rise.” Ajaokuta indicated that the blast, which occurred at 5:30 PM (1630 GMT), happened at a garage opposite a military unit and it appeared to have been caused by explosives that were left nearby. Since last Friday, Maiduguri, which has been a regular target for Boko Haram Islamists, has been hit four times.
On Tuesday, suspected Boko Haram militants launched a renewed attack on Maiduguri, just days after the military repelled an assault on the key city. At least thirteen people were killed Tuesday in a suicide attack at a busy cattle market in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. According to Red Cross officials and locals, the blast in the Borno state capital occurred at around 1:00PM (1200 GMT) as traders were wrapping up business for the day. The northeast spokesman of the Nigerian Red Cross, Umar Sadiq, indicated that there were 13 dead and 24 injured who were taken to two city hospitals for treatment. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack, it bore the hallmarks of the group, with one official indicated that the victims were “carefully targeted,” adding “the bomber chose the most crowded part of the market and set off his bombs.” The attack came after Boko Haram militants again targeted Maiduguri with rocket-propelled grenades in the early hours of Tuesday after hitting the city in a similar attack on Saturday. Residents reported that the militants arrived in the Moronti area of the city by river during the early hours of Tuesday however they were unable to advance further because of wide ditches and embankments that were dug by soldiers around the city limits. According to locals, the militants then began shelling Ajillari Cross, which is located about three kilometres (2 miles) away. One local stated, “we were bombarded by RPG’s (rocket-propelled grenades) by Boko Haram from Moronti…We all left our homes for fear of being hit inside. It was dark so we could see the trajectory of the RPG’s, which were red with heat… Soon afterwards, we saw troops in trucks moving towards Moronti and then a fighter jet also deployed not long afterwards.”
On Monday, a spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the newly elected president will this week make his first foreign trip since taking office.
Newly elected President Buhari is due to travel to neighboring Niger on Wednesday and to Chad on Thursday. Niger shares a border with Borno and Yobe states while Chad borders Borno state in Nigeria’s extreme northeast. According to Shehu Garba, the two-day trip will focus on “maters of security,” with the cooperation of Nigeria’s neighbors seen as being critical to ending the militant uprising, which since 2009 has claimed more than 15,000 lives.
President Buhari was sworn in last Friday and during his inaugural speech, he vowed to crush the insurgent group, which he described as “mindless” and “godless.” Despite this vow, Boko Haram carried out an attack some twelve hours after the new president took the oath of office, targeting homes in the key northeastern city of Maiduguri. Overnight on Saturday, the militants stormed the city, launching rocket-propelled grenades. Later, a suicide attack at a mosque in the city, which is the Borno state capital, killed at least twenty-six people and injured dozens others. On Sunday, the militants raided two towns in Borno’s neighboring state of Yobe, where they torched public buildings and looted food and fuel stores.
While former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had previously complained that Nigeria’s neighbors were not doing enough in order to contain Boko Haram, as in some instances, the militants were able to flee military pursuit by crossing porous borders, a four-nation offensive launched in February, and which includes troops from Cameroon, has won significant victories, however there are growing fears that Boko Haram may be regrouping, particularly in the remote border areas which are difficult to patrol. In turn, both Chad and Niger have complained of a lack of cooperation from Nigeria, which has strained relations with all its neighbors. Chadian troops have also had to retake some towns from Boko Haram several times as Nigerian troops haven’t arrived in order to secure them.