Chad says suicide blasts kill at least 15 in Lake Chad

December 5, 2015

N'DJAMENA Four female suicide bombers attacked the Chadian island of Koulfoua on Lake Chad on Saturday, killing at least 15 people and injuring 130 in an attack blamed by security sources on militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

The swampy maze of islands in the border areas between Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria has become one of the main targets of Boko Haram fighters who can find easy cover in the waterways. The militants are based mostly in Nigeria but have become a wider security threat for the region.

"The provisional death toll is 19 dead, including the four kamikazes, and 130 injured," said state TV.

A U.N. official said that there was an unspecified number of people displaced by Boko Haram-related violence on the island when the attackers struck around midday on a busy market day.

Two of the blasts rang out from the center of the market and a third in the street as people fled. All of the bombers were female, the security sources added.

Chad extended a state of emergency in the region last month after a double suicide attack that killed 12 people. Dozens of people were killed in multiple bombings in the border town of Baga Sola in October.

But new restrictions, such as bans on motorized canoes aimed at stopping attacks, makes it harder for aid agencies to access the roughly 60,000 displaced people living there.

"Evacuations will have to be done by the army with the assistance of non-governmental organizations and the United Nations to local healthcare centers like Bol," said Florent Mehaule, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Chad.

He said most of the region's displaced had arrived in April after clashes between Chad and Boko Haram in Niger and Nigeria. Mehaule could not provide exact details of the number of displaced on the island during the attack since they have not been able to reach it for several months.

Lake Chad countries, backed by Benin, have vowed to defeat Boko Haram using forces from an 8,700-strong regional task force which officially become operational in August.

However, security sources say that logistical constraints have caused delays and there are growing signs that national armies are instead acting alone. Cameroon said it conducted a major operation along its long western border with Nigeria, killing 100 militants and freeing 900 people.

Ryan Cummings, chief analyst for Africa at crisis management company red24, said such a strategy would have limited effects.

"Boko Haram requires a simultaneous multilateral counter-insurgency operation which leaves militants with nowhere to run," he said.

Suspected Boko Haram suicide attacks kill dozens in Chad


At least 36 people were killed in Chad Saturday in what appeared to be a string of coordinated suicide attacks targeting a village housing thousands of Nigerian refugees that had fled Islamic extremist violence.

The five suicide bombers behind the attacks in Baga Sola, on the shores of Lake Chad, have been identified as two women, two children and a man, according to a statement from government spokesman Hassan Sylla Bakari.

Female suicide bombers hit the market in Baga Sola when it was at its busiest Saturday, killing at least 16 people, the director general of Chad’s gendarmerie, General Banyaman Cossingar, said. A second group of suicide bombers also targeted a nearby refugee camp, killing dozens more.

"There are bodies everywhere, a head here, a leg there, everyone is in a state of panic," a resident said on the condition of anonymity.

There were conflicting reports on the number of wounded. While the government’s official count was 48, the UNICEF said at least 53 people were wounded, including 14 children.

“There were three explosions at the Baga Sola market and two explosions near the Dar-es-Salam refugee camp. From our information, the explosion was not in the refugee camp, but in a part of the village nearby,” police spokesman Paul Manka said, noting that two of the bombings were near the refugee camp, but not actually inside it.

For months, Baga Sola has been home to thousands of people who already had fled deadly Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria. The United Nations says the Dar-es-Salam camp now has just over 3,000 refugees, and can house up to 15,000 people.

The village is in the Lake Chad region near the border with Nigeria, where Boko Haram first launched its insurgency six years ago. According to Amnesty International the uprising has so far killed 20,000 people.

While Boko Haram has attacked Chad’s capital before, the bombings on Saturday appear to be the largest and most elaborate staged yet in the country’s lake region.

Chad has become a major military ally of Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram, which earlier this year threatened to retaliate.

In June and July, Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, was rocked by a series of suicide attacks that killed dozens of people - the first such attacks since Boko Haram threatened Chad.

Boko Haram, which has pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group, has also stepped up attacks in Nigeria and neighboring countries since Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took office in May pledging to halt the uprising.

Boko Haram has used dozens of young girls and women in recent suicide bombings in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, raising fears it is using kidnap victims to target countries involved in setting up a regional force to combat the extremists.

Fierce fighting erupts between Chadian army and Boko Haram


Heavy fighting pitted the Chadian army on Monday against insurgents from the Nigeria-based Boko Haram group on islands in Lake Chad, security and local sources said.

"Violent clashes" were under way near Baga Sola, one of the main Chadian towns in the lake that straddles Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger, a Chadian security source told AFP, adding that Chadian forces had earlier "intercepted fleeing Boko Haram elements" around 20 kilometres (12 miles) to the southeast.

A source close to the local authorities said a "major search operation" was under way for Boko Haram militants hiding out on the lake's islands.

According to the security official, the clashes between militants and Chadian forces erupted Saturday on Midi Koutou island, leaving six Boko Haram fighters dead and 15 wounded. A Chadian soldier was also said to have been killed.

The source said Boko Haram "kidnapped many women and children" as they fled Saturday's fighting, and added Chadian forces had "around a thousand men positioned to occupy all the islands and neutralise Boko Haram."

The source close to local authorities said that, following a request from the central government about two weeks ago, an operation was launched "to evacuate the islands' populations," and that about 90 percent of residents had been moved to the mainland since.

Boko Haram fighters have staged several bloody attacks in recent months on islands in Lake Chad, which they have begun using as a rear-base after being routed from their traditional strongholds in Nigeria in an offensive by regional armies launched at the start of the year. (AFP)

Chad bans Islamic face veil after suicide bombings

17 June 2015

Chad has banned people from wearing the full-face veil, following two suicide bomb attacks on Monday.
Chad's government accused Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram of the bombings which killed more than 20 people.

The prime minister said the veil was used as a "camouflage" by militants and said the security forces will burn all full-face veils sold in markets.

Chad is to host a new regional force set up to tackle Boko Haram.

The militant group has not commented on the attack but has previously threatened to attack Chad, after its forces started to help Nigeria.

At a meeting with religious leaders, Prime Minister Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet said the ban applied everywhere, not only public places.

He added that any clothing that covers everything but the eyes was a camouflage.

The attackers were on motorcycles when they blew themselves up outside two police buildings in the capital, N'Djamena.

Borno state, at the heart of the insurgency, is on the Nigerian border with Chad and Chadian forces have played a key role in helping Nigeria battle the jihadist group.

The US announced on Tuesday that it will give $5m (3.2m) towards a multi-national task force headquarters in Chad.

The BBC World Service's Africa editor Richard Hamilton says Boko Haram militants have increasingly been using female suicide bombers in Nigeria, as they are more likely to smuggle bombs into public places without detection.

The majority of the population in Chad is Muslim and the burka is worn mainly for religious reasons, but also helps protect women from the hot, dusty climate of the Sahara.

The full-face Islamic veil was also banned in May in public places in Congo-Brazzaville, to "counter terrorism".

Although there has never been an Islamist attack in the country and less than 5% of the population of Congo-Brazzaville is Muslim, thousands of mostly Muslim people had fled the neighbouring Central African Republic and had taken shelter in mosques.

NDJAMENA - Ethnic fighting between rival mobs of Muslim and non-Muslim residents killed 12 people and injured another 16 in the south Chadian town of Bebedjia, the country's defence minister said on Monday. Bebedjia lies about 35 km from Chad's oilfields at Doba, the largest private sector investment ever undertaken in Africa, which have been pumping crude oil for the last year.

Residents in the town, most of whose inhabitants are Christian or practise traditional African religions, say its proximity to the oil project has attracted people looking for jobs, notably nomadic Muslims from the north of Chad. "A dispute between a trader and a customer escalated," Defence Minister Emmanuel Naringar told IRIN from the town, 600 km south of the capital, Ndjamena.

Officials and aid workers said the violence had flared on Wednesday when a young trader belonging to the Ngambaye ethnic group, dominant in the south-western region of the country, refused to sell a bag to a Muslim from the north. Their fight then sucked in other members of their communities.

"The events were so violent the government could not wait," the minister said. "We came rapidly to calm things down, restore state authority, reassure the people and make sure peaceful coexistence remains a reality in the area." Another witness in the town said on Monday that several houses and part of the market had been burnt down during the clashes and some families had been forced to seek shelter at the town's hospital and church.

Yorongar Ngarledji, the town's representative in parliament and a member of the opposition, put the death toll much higher, saying 33 people had in fact been killed. "This is what happens because of the difficulty of cohabitation between the indigenous population who are Christian farmers and the Muslim herdsmen," Ngarledji told IRIN.

Eleyakim Vanambyl, a journalist for a Doba-based radio station, said last week's violence was not the first such incident in the area and that similar tensions had erupted a month ago in the nearby village of Bikou, although no-one was killed. 2004


Darfur violence spreads across border to Chad

Marauding Arab gunmen drive at least 20,000 from their homes.

The New York Times Tuesday, February 28, 2006

ADRE, Chad - The chaos in Darfur, the war-ravaged region in Sudan where more than 200,000 civilians have been killed, has spread across the border into Chad, deepening one of the world's worst refugee crises.
Arab gunmen from Darfur have pushed across the desert, stealing cattle, burning crops and killing anyone who resists. The lawlessness has driven at least 20,000 Chadians from their homes, turning them into refugees in their own country.
Hundreds of thousands more people in this area, along with 200,000 Sudanese who fled here for safety, now find themselves caught up in a growing conflict between Chad and Sudan, two nations with a long history of violence and meddling in each other's affairs.
"You may have thought the terrible situation in Darfur couldn't get worse, but it has," Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said in a recent statement. "Sudan's policy of arming militias and letting them loose is spilling over the border, and civilians have no protection from their attacks, in Darfur or in Chad."
Indeed, the accounts of civilians in parts of eastern Chad are agonizingly familiar to those in western Sudan. One woman, Zahara Isaac Mahamat, described how Arab men on camels and horses had raided her village in Chad, stealing everything they could find and slaughtering all who resisted.
The dead included her husband, Ismail Ibrahim, who tried to prevent the raiders from burning his sorghum and millet fields. Like so many others in this desolate expanse of dust-choked earth, she fled west with her three children, much as people in Darfur have been forced to do in recent years.
"I have lost everything but my children," she said, her face looking much older than her 20 years. She is now a refugee, with thousands of other displaced Chadians, in Kolloye, a village south of here. "We have three bowls of grain left," she said. "When that is gone, only God can help us."
The spreading chaos is a result of two closely connected conflicts in the neighboring countries:
In Darfur, government forces and the janjaweed, Arab militias aligned with the government, have been battling rebels in a campaign of terror that the Bush administration has called genocide.
The U.N Security Council has agreed to send troops to protect civilians, but they will take months to arrive. In the meantime, President Bush has said, NATO should help shore up a failing African Union peacekeeping mission there, but a surge of violence has chased tens of thousands of people from their homes in recent weeks.
In Chad, the government is fighting its own war against rebels based in Sudan and bent on removing Chad's ailing president, Idriss Deby, from power.
The rebels include disgruntled soldiers who defected and tribes tired of being ruled by members of the president's tribe, the Zaghawa, who represent just a small percentage of the population but who have long dominated politics and the military.
In a sign of how inseparable the two conflicts have become, Deby has accused Sudan of supporting the rebellion against his government, and Sudan has long suspected members of Deby's family of supporting Zaghawa-led rebels in Darfur.
Both sides agreed at a summit meeting in Libya in early February to stop supporting rebels on each other's territory and to tone down the belligerent talk. But Chadian rebels have remained on the Sudanese side of the border, and it is not clear whether Deby has the capacity to stop members of his clan from supporting Darfur rebels.
If unchecked by international intervention, this complex and volatile mix of government forces, allied militias and at least a half-dozen rebel groups in a remote region awash with weapons will almost inevitably lead to disaster, said John Prendergast, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, and an expert on the Darfur conflict.
In Chad, the trouble began in December when rebel groups attacked Adre and two other strategic border towns. The Chadian army repelled the rebels, but it withdrew its troops from garrisons along the border to fortify Adre.
The withdrawal left a security vacuum for the janjaweed to rush into. The once well-traveled road between Adre, a bustling border town, and Kolloye has become a terrifying gantlet roamed by bandits and Arab militias. Dozens of villages have emptied; some have been burned. The few aid agencies working in this lawless region avoid the road, using a circuitous route farther west to reach Abeche, the regional capital.
At the hospital in Adre, the number of gunshot victims in December and January almost doubled, to about 100 a month, relief officials said, a sign of growing lawlessness.
In one ward lay Fatime Youma, 13, with a tube draining the gunshot wound that had punctured her lung.
She was shot, her father said, while looking for firewood with her 16-year-old sister, Zenab, who lay in the next room with a gunshot wound to her arm.
The man charged with defending Chad's border and protecting refugees and civilians is Gen. Abakar Youssouf Mahamat Itno, 38, a nephew of Deby who was dispatched here the day of the rebel attack.
"Sudan wants to export the war in Darfur to us here," Itno said at his camp in the hills above Adre. "They want to use the janjaweed they armed to terrorize Darfur, to terrorize our population. We will not allow it."
Even so, he acknowledged his inability to patrol the border areas. "It is a long border," he said. "We cannot be everywhere at once."