Friday,24 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)
Friday,24 November, 2017
Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Chad bombs Boko Haram positions

In conjunction with Nigeria, Chad is spearheading regional efforts to fight Boko Haram, reports Haytham Nouri

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Chadian government reacted swiftly, and on more than one front, to Monday’s bombings in N’Djamena, in which 34 were killed and 100 injured. No one claimed responsibility for the bombings, which targeted two police facilities, but it was widely assumed that the attack was carried out by the extremist Boko Haram group.

Based in northeast Nigeria, Boko Haram has posed a threat to countries bordering Lake Chad for six years. Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, threatened in the past to attack Chad and other countries cooperating with Nigeria in the fight against his group, which has sworn fealty to the Islamic State (IS).

But this is the first time N’Djamena, which is taking part in the war against Boko Haram, has been subjected to such attacks. Chadian President Idriss Deby addressed the nation in the wake of the attacks, saying that the Chadian planes had bombed several Boko Haram positions in neighbouring Nigeria, inflicting considerable damage.

“In response to the cowardly and barbaric acts perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists ... the armed forces carried out reprisal air strikes on the terrorists’ positions in Nigerian territory on Wednesday,” the army said in a statement released Thursday.

Chad, whose capital N’Djamena is a command centre for a regional anti-Boko Haram taskforce, has also banned religious burqas, the head-to-toe dress that covers the face, saying that it can be used as camouflage by militants.

In neighbouring Cameroon, police closed the Ngueli border bridge at Kousseri town. The bridge, which connects Cameroon’s northern region with the southwest outskirts of the Chadian capital, is a vital commercial route. Its closure is likely to cause hardship to businesses on both sides of the border.

Chadian Prime Minister Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet said his country detained several beggars and foreigners for possible links with the attacks. The suspects are being held in Baga Sola, a town near Lake Chad, close to the Nigerian border.

Deubet also said that boating and fishing will be banned on parts of the River Chari, which flows into Lake Chad. Boko Haram militants, using motorised canoes, have launched attacks on targets on Lake Chad in the past.

“Wearing the burqa must stop immediately from today, not only in public places and schools but throughout the whole of the country,” Deubet told clerics late last week. He urged the country’s religious leaders to spread the message in mosques and churches.

Deubet said police have been instructed to “go into the markets and to seize all the burqas on sale and burn them.”

Last week, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Benin and Cameroon agreed to set up a regional taskforce of 8,700 soldiers, police officers and civilians. The taskforce, to be based in N’Djamena, is dedicated to fighting Boko Haram.

Security was tightened in N’Djamena after the bombings, with police and army servicemen deployed in the streets and searching cars. Areas around the presidential palace and the police headquarters were sealed off.

Chad is also headquarters to the around 3,000 French troops involved in the war on terror in the African Sahel. A former French colony that gained its independence in 1960, Chad is a mixed-faith country. Muslims constitute 53 per cent of the population, Christians 34 per cent, and the rest follow traditional religions.

Clerics in neighbouring Islamic countries were displeased with the ban on burqas. The deputy director of the Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU) said he had hoped for a “societal dialogue about the decision.” But Nigerian Muslims leaders were sympathetic to the Chadian decision, said Khadr Abdel Baqi, a professor in Kanhu University.

Over 9,000 troops of a multinational African force are already engaged in the war against Boko Haram. The US provides $40 million in logistical and military assistance to Chad and other countries in the region. Washington has also trained 15,000 soldiers from African countries involved in the war on terror.

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