The government of Chad has intensified its efforts against the jihadist terrorist group Boko Haram following a bomb attack on the nation’s capital, N’Djamena. After banning the Islamic burqa veil, Chad announced a new series of airstrikes against the terror group along the borders with Nigeria and Niger, and has begun efforts to detain “beggars” and foreigners to increase safety in the capital.
“In response to the cowardly and barbaric acts perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists … the armed forces carried out reprisal airstrikes on the terrorists’ positions in Nigerian territory on Wednesday,” the government of Chad announced in a statement last week, promising their government would enact “merciless” punishment against the terrorist group. The June 15 attack on the capital left 37 dead and was the first of its kind recorded in Chad. While the terrorist group had attacked islands in Lake Chad and some border territories, they had not advanced into the nation’s interior.
The airstrikes on Thursday allegedly hit six Boko Haram bases, which the Chadian government claimed occurred near or even within Nigeria. Nigeria’s defense spokesperson Major-General Chris Olukolade denied this claim, however, stating that “the claim that the Chadian military have conducted airstrikes against six terrorist camps in Nigeria is not correct.” He noted that it is possible that Chad did, in fact, conduct airstrikes, but that the territory involved was more likely in Niger than Nigeria. “The territory of Nigeria has not been violated as insinuated in the reports circulated in some foreign media,” Olukolade stated.
Niger is a member of the international anti-Boko Haram coalition with Chad and Nigeria, which also includes Cameroon and Benin. Following the N’Djamena bombing, Boko Haram terrorists raided multiple towns in Niger, expanding their cross-border influence.
Chad has been Nigeria’s ally against Boko Haram since the beginning of this year, though its cooperation has been marred by what Chadian President Idriss Deby described as “regrettable” coordination between the two armies. In the most dramatic example of this lack of coordination, Nigerian soldiers claimed to have liberated the town of Damasak in northeastern Nigeria in March, only to have civilians return and be abducted by the hundreds by Boko Haram soldiers. The town was only liberated completely after the arrival of Chadian soldiers.
Chad’s response to the N’Djamena bombing has been intensive. The government immediately imposed a ban on the Islamic burqa, or full face covering, which is prohibited as potential “camouflage” that may be used to hide a bomb. Government officials are forcing all private owners of burqas and stores selling them to burn them or face legal retribution. Chad has also sent law enforcement to round up beggars, foreign nationals, and anyone suspicious who may aid the terrorist group. Prime Minister Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet stated that those detained would be held near Lake Chad on the Nigerian border, but he did not specify what would happen with these individuals upon their detention or why Chad believed this was a necessary step in fighting Boko Haram.
Chad is also banning fishing on some of the more sensitive parts of Lake Chad that may be used as border crossings for terrorists.
Chad has surfaced in the fight against Boko Haram, now officially affiliated with the Islamic State, as among the most potent military powers in the region, despite, as El Pais reports, being the fourth-poorest country in the world, according to UN world development statistics.