N’DJAMENA: Many people were reported killed Monday when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in attacks targeting police in the capital of Chad, a country on the frontline of the fight against Boko Haram.
The government swiftly convened an emergency meeting following the simultaneous bombings outside the police headquarters and police academy in N’Djamena, an official said on condition of anonymity.
They were the first such attacks in the capital of the north-central African nation, where security has been beefed up since Chad joined the fight against Boko Haram earlier this year.
An official with the capital’s police force told AFP that many people were dead and wounded in the twin attacks although there was no precise casualty toll.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, which came as police cadets were attending a training course at the academy.
Large numbers of Chad’s security forces were seen taking up positions on the streets of the capital after the attacks.
President Idriss Deby was expected to return home during the day from an African Union summit in Johannesburg, an official said.
The former French colony is part of a four-nation coalition also including Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger that was created to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency as the group steps up cross-border attacks.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has on several occasions threatened to attack Chad and other countries in the coalition.
Paris condemned Monday’s blasts, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying France “stands alongside Chad and its partners in the fight against terrorism”.
Chad also is a close ally of France in its counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane in five countries in the Sahel region and the French army has set up its headquarters for the campaign in N’Djamena.
Backing for regional force
Last week, Abuja hosted a summit where Nigeria and fellow coalition members plus Benin rubber-stamped an 8,700-strong regional force to replace the current four-nation grouping.
The long-awaited Multi-National Joint Task Force, which was due to have been operational in November, has its headquarters in N’Djamena, under a senior Nigerian officer.
Boko Haram has been waging a six-year campaign of violence in northeastern Nigeria that has left at least 15,000 people dead and increasingly spilled across borders.
Chad’s involvement in the fight against Boko Haram began in January when Deby sent troops to assist neighboring Cameroon, whose far northern region was coming under attack from the rebels.
More than 70 Chadian soldiers have died in operations against the Islamists, including attacks around Lake Chad where the borders of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger meet.
Nigeria’s new President Muhammadu Buhari, who has vowed to make crushing Boko Haram the priority of his rule, visited Chad as well as Niger earlier this month to build up the regional coalition against the Islamists.
“Boko Haram declared that they are in alliance with ISIS, so terrorism has gone international. They are in Mali, they are in Nigeria, they are in Syria, they are in Iraq, they are in Yemen,” he told AFP at the summit in South Africa on Monday.
“It’s an international problem now,” he said.
Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates as “Western education is forbidden”, aims to create an Islamic caliphate in the territories it controls and earlier this month declared allegiance to the Islamic State group.
Some of the 1.5 million people made homeless by the violence have fled to Chad, a poor, largely desert landlocked country.