Boko Haram has targeted a Chadian army base located on an island and inflicted the deadliest attack on Chad’s military forces yet.
At 05:00 on Saturday, the terrorist group attacked the isolated Chadian base. The base is located across the Bohoma peninsula in Lac Province amid the large, marshy area bordering Lake Chad. The seven-hour firefight left 98 Chadian soldiers dead, 47 wounded, and the morale of the army reeling.
“Bohoma will remain as a scar for the army,” said an anonymous Chadian officer. Boko Haram has been increasing its attacks around the borders of Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger.
The jihadists, using their knowledge of the marshy areas and small islands in the region, were known to be conducting smaller raids and suicide attacks. But this one was a large coordinated assault. At least 24 vehicles, including armored ones, were destroyed in the assault and captured arms and equipment were taken by boat across Lake Chad.
The Chadian army had drawn down the strength of the army unit in the peninsula, something the Boko Haram terrorists undoubtedly knew about.
Chad had promised to send a battalion of 480 men to help fight the jihadists operating in the Sahel.
In response, the Chadian government has declared a state of emergency in the two departments that border Niger and Nigeria. This emergency decree will allow local and miliary officials to prohibit traffic and to search homes for terror suspects. President Deby vowed a “lightning response” to the attack.
President Idriss Deby said in a statement on Chadi television that he traveled to the base to pay tribute to the dead soldiers, stating it was the first time so many troops had been lost. The president mentioned that 92 soldiers were killed, but other reports put that number at 98.
“We lost 92 of our soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers,” in the attack in Boma, the president said. “It’s the first time we have lost so many men,” he added.
The reinforcements sent to relieve the troops became targets themselves and were stopped, military officers said to AFP.
“The camp is on an island where the ways in were controlled by Boko Haram fighters, they were able to leave as they wanted and without being forced out by the army,” one army officer said.
Boko Haram’s terrorist campaign, which began in 2009 in Nigeria has killed over 36,000 people and displaced nearly two million in northeastern Nigeria, according to the United Nations.
Since 2015, the countries in the region have created the Multinational Joint Force, a regional coalition engaged around Lake Chad with the help of local residents formed into small militias. But it hasn’t been nearly enough to stop the jihadist violence.
On the other side of the border in Nigeria, another group from the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP) ambushed a large column of Nigerian soldiers, during an attack on the village of Gorgi, killing 70 of them. Using rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons, they decimated the Nigerian troops.
In 2019 in Cameroon, 275 people were killed by jihadist attacks, most of them civilians, according to a report published by Amnesty International in December.
And in Niger, the army is reeling from three attacks in December and January where 174 soldiers were killed.