Boko Haram Begins to Target Chad

Today there were a series of attacks on police offices in the capital of Chad, N’Djamena. Approximately 100 individuals were injured, and 27 were killed. It is speculated that four of the 27 killed were Boko Haram Islamist fighters. Boko Haram has not officially come out and claimed responsibility for the attack. Their involvement seems plausible, however, based on the groups’ previous action around the Lake Chad region. Lake Chad is near where the borders of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger meet.

The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, had already reportedly made threats to Chad in response to Chad’s role in a regional offensive against Boko Haram. “Chad’s involvement in the fight against Boko Haram began in January when [Chadian President] Deby sent troops to assist neighboring Cameroon, whose far northern region was under attack from the rebels”. Chad is part of a four-nation coalition that was constructed to respond to Boko Haram’s increasing strength and abilities. The other countries in the coalition are Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria.

Boko Haram is a Nigerian-based group and “has been fighting a nearly six-year insurgency against the Nigerian government”. Because of this, Boko Haram did not take lightly the Chadian and Nigerien troops that entered northern Nigeria in March of this year to help the Nigerians fight. This is partly why Boko Haram has now begun to target Chad more and more. The suicide bombing attack on Chad’s capital is actually the first of this kind of attack for Chad, while Nigeria on the other hand has been bombarded many times by Boko Haram over the 6-year confrontation. As reported on the Free Fire Blog, the group has attacked schools, assaulted troops, and even posed as Nigerian military troops to kill hundreds in Damasak, Nigeria.

Around March of this year, Boko Haram declared their allegiance with the Islamic State and changed their name to “Islamic State in West Africa”. The relationship to IS could help them survive recent military successes by the Nigerian military. “They are in Mali, they are in Nigeria, they are in Syria, they are in Iraq, they are in Yemen”. There are numerous other groups and tribes in these regional areas that have also pledged their allegiance to IS.  These groups are more determined to share numbers, intelligence, weapons, and ideology. The more that these terrorist organizations, especially the most influential ones such as Boko Haram and IS adapt, the harder it is going to be for the US to help combat them.

While the Islamic State seems to have turned its focus from terrorizing populations to pursuing governance (although the first is still a problem), Boko Haram has increased its focus on gaining territory. While this is a main goal for all jihadist groups, Boko Haram’s allegiance with the Islamic State will only increase its chances in gaining more ground. Countries surrounding the Lake Chad region must continue to stand strong against the jihadist forces and look for aid and resources from other regional powers. Chad should be prepared for much more confrontation from Boko Haram, sooner than later.