Boko Haram Goes International, Follows Chad Attack with Niger Raids

NBC News

Days after an unprecedented attack on Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, Boko Haram has raided multiple villages in neighboring Niger, also a member of the coalition helping Nigeria eradicate the Islamist terror group. At least 38 people were killed in the attack, with dozens now displaced as homes and businesses were burned.

Nigerian regional MP Bulu Mammadu gave reporters the most up-to-date death toll, explaining that the raids had occurred on Wednesday night, and deaths were mostly shootings of women and children, unlike the Chadian suicide bomb attack. Mammadu named the villages of Lamina and Ungumawo as the victimized locations, and noted that, in addition to the deaths, a large number of the village residences were destroyed.

Witnesses speaking on national television and translated by Al Jazeera told reporters that the terrorists entered the town and began “shooting and burning everything in their path.” Witnesses noted that, while most victims were shot, others were burned alive in their homes.

Niger has vowed to retaliate against the terrorist group, announcing “air and ground operations” against Boko Haram strongholds. They will join Chad, which began conducting more intense airstrikes against Boko Haram earlier this week in response to the “cowardly and barbaric” N’Djamena attack, according to a government statement.

The attack on Chad’s capital was the first of its kind; previously, Boko Haram resorted only to attacking Chad’s border territories while remaining as close to Nigeria as possible. Two suicide bombers killed at least 23 people in the capital, and while Boko Haram has not issued any official statement on the matter, they are widely believed to be the culprits.

The government of Chad has responded not only with airstrikes, but with a ban on the Islamic burqa and religious turbans, classifying them as potential “camouflage” in which to hide explosives. The government of Chad ordered all stores to burn every burqa in their inventory and private persons to do the same, subject to legal reprisal.

Both Chad and Niger are part of an international coalition–along with Niger, Cameroon, and Benin–whose militaries have joined forces to fight Boko Haram, now renamed the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Given the recent attacks, multiple western states are contributing to the coalition in the hopes of helping it permanently eradicate the Islamist threat. On Thursday, the European Commission announced that it would commit $2.4 million to the coalition. “The new EU funding will provide immediate support, including clean water, food, shelter, health care and protection to the displaced and the host communities in the north-east of Nigeria,” an official statement read.

The United States has also increased its aid to beleaguered Nigeria, offering $5 million to establish a Boko Haram task force that will be based in Chad. That force will look very much like the current multinational coalition, but is expected to be a more organized effort.