Idriss Déby, the president of Chad, pronounced the battle against the notorious ISIS-linked terrorists of Boko Haram a rousing success on Tuesday, declaring that the group had been “decapitated” and would be mopped up “by the end of the year.”
However, Tuesday also brought word of a massive bomb attack on a crowded market in Nigeria that appears to have been the work of Boko Haram. 47 people were reportedly killed in this attack, with 52 more injured.
Déby predicted that the war between Boko Haram and the five-nation pan-African force assembled to defeat it would be “short.” He said the combined forces of his own Chad, plus Benin, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria, would be “operational in a few days.” The force was supposed to deploy last November.
As AFP reports, Déby also thought the feared leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, had been either killed or driven off, to be replaced by “someone apparently called Mahamat Daoud,” who “wants to negotiate with the Nigerian government.” Déby said he would advise Nigeria not to pursue such negotiations.
The Chadian president was not blind to the threat of suicide bombings and other terrorists attacks by Boko Haram; he seemed to be envisioning the end of the military threat they posed to the combined African nations. He called for area leaders to “organise at the regional level to prevent bomb-making materials and other explosives entering our countries.”
The Nigerian attack took place in the town of Sabon Gari, in what Reuters describes as the “heartland” of Boko Haram. No formal claim of responsibility has been made yet. Some of the victims were reportedly burned beyond recognition in the blast.
“The army said it pushed the group from most of that area in the last few months with the help of troops from Chad, Niger and Cameroon, but there has been a recent resurgence in militant attacks,” Reuters writes, echoing the point President Déby made about Boko Haram transitioning from raids and conquest to terrorist attacks.
However, the New York Times reports that, at the same time, “hundreds of fighters invaded a town across the border in Cameroon in attacks Tuesday that witnesses and officials blame on Boko Haram Islamic extremists.”
Another AFP article pushed the death toll from the market attack up to 50, saying that two new bodies were recovered from the bushland, where they apparently died of their injuries after fleeing the market.
One eyewitness said the market was “littered with all sorts of articles,” describing the mobile phone section of the marketplace as particularly grisly, with “many dead and pieces of flesh and blood splattered all over.”
“Dozens of soldiers on Wednesday formed a security ring around the market, which was littered with footwear and clothing and still spattered with congealed blood,” says the report.
Security analyst Ryan Cummings is quoted in the AFP article describing Boko Haram terror attacks as creating “the demoralising perception that it is a threat which is omnipresent, capable of inflicting harm on Nigerians in any given place at any given time.” He also warned that such attacks would draw security resources away from operations that could strike effective military blows against Boko Haram strongholds.