Four suicide bombers on motorcycles killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 100 others in Chad’s capital on Monday, raising fears of a widening threat from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the simultaneous attacks on two buildings, including the national police academy, in N’Djamena. But suspicion quickly fell on Boko Haram, the Islamist group based in northeast Nigeria.
The suicide attacks were the first of their kind in the capital of an ally of Nigeria involved in the fight against the group. In recent months, its strongholds in Nigeria have come under increased pressure from a five-nation coalition of African forces.
Chad’s leadership role in that coalition's counterinsurgency campaign led Boko Haram in February to publicly threaten Chadian President Idriss Deby. Until Monday, N’Djamena, the headquarters of the regional coalition, had been spared retaliatory strikes, though parts of the Lake Chad region had suffered attacks earlier this year.
"Boko Haram is making a mistake by targeting Chad," Communications Minister Hassan Sylla Bakari said on state television, according to Reuters. "These lawless terrorists will be chased out and neutralized wherever they are."
Witnesses told The Associated press that a suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up outside a government building where the head of the national police is based. A second explosion went off at the headquarters of the national police academy, witnesses said.
On Sunday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari warned African leaders attending a summit in Johannesburg of Boko Haram’s spreading influence. He ordered the immediate disbursement of $21 million of the $100 million the Nigerian government has pledged to the regional joint task force.
“The Boko Haram insurgency has extended its reach to Nigeria’s neighbors,” Mr. Buhari said, according to Premium Times, a Nigerian news website. “But is not necessarily limited to these immediate countries, as terrorism is a global phenomenon with linkages across the globe.”
In a statement released last week, the United Nations Security Council urged every country in the region "to further enhance regional military cooperation and coordination to more effectively and immediately combat Boko Haram.”
The Council expresses concern that the activities of Boko Haram continue to have adverse humanitarian impact on West and Central Africa, including the displacement of an estimated 74,000 Nigerians into neighboring Cameroon, 96,000 internally displaced persons within Cameroon, and in Chad almost 20,000 Nigerian refugees, 8,500 returnees and 14,500 internally displaced persons.
That Boko Haram is the largest affiliate of the self-described Islamic State has only added to regional fears. But analysts recently told The New York Times that they believe the counterinsurgency effort has forced the group to retreat on some fronts.
The group's media production has also been disrupted. After two months without new videos, Boko Haram released its newest one – in which it denies having lost territory – on June 2.
Chad has spearheaded offensives against Al Qaeda-linked groups in Mali. It also hosts a French and American military base.