Boko Haram jihadists killed nearly 100 Chadian soldiers in a seven-hour attack on an island army base, in their deadliest attack to date against the country’s armed forces.
President Idriss Deby said on Chadian television that he went to the scene of the attack on Tuesday to pay tribute to the 92 dead soldiers, saying it was the first time that so many troops had been lost.
Monday morning’s attack in Boma, Lac province, is part of a growing jihadist campaign in the vast swampy region of Lake Chad, where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria converge.
Boko Haram launched an insurgency in Nigeria in 2009 before starting incursions into its neighboring countries to the east.
“We lost 92 of our soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers,” during the attack on Boma, said the president.
“This is the first time that we have lost so many men,” he said.
The attack on soldiers on the Boma peninsula lasted at least seven hours and reinforcements sent to help got bogged down and were also targeted, several military sources told AFP.
“The camp is on an island where access was controlled by Boko Haram fighters, they were able to leave as they wanted and without being forced out by the army,” said a security official.
“The enemy has violently struck our defenses in this area,” said the senior officer.
A military official said that army vehicles had been destroyed, including armored vehicles, and that captured military weapons had been taken to speedboats by Boko Haram.
The base was taken by surprise at the 5:00 am attack, the official said.
Boko Haram has intensified its attacks in recent months on the islands of the Lake Chad basin where it takes advantage of the vast terrain to launch assaults.
The Boko Haram insurgency has killed 36,000 people and displaced nearly two million people in northeast Nigeria since the start, according to the UN.
Since 2015, the countries of the region have been cooperating in the Multinational Joint Force, a regional coalition engaged around Lake Chad with the help of local residents formed into vigilante groups.
But regional armed forces are struggling to cope with the jihadist insurgency.
In Cameroon, violence increased in 2019 and early 2020. In Cameroon’s Far North, 275 people were killed by jihadist attacks in 2019, mostly civilians, according to a report released by Amnesty International in December.
In Niger, 174 soldiers were killed in three attacks in January and December.