When battle-hardened Chadian troops overran a Boko Haram camp in northern Nigeria last week, they wanted to press deep into territory controlled by the Islamist group but Nigeria refused to let them. Having defeated al-Qaeda in Mali two years ago, Chad’s military believes it could finish off Boko Haram insurgents alone. It has notched up victories that have pushed the Nigerian militants back from the Cameroonian border.
But with presidential election this month, Nigeria is keen to press ahead with its own military campaign against Boko Haram insurgents aiming to push it out of major towns before the March 28 election. In a country proud to be a major African power, it would be an embarrassment to President Goodluck Jonathan as he seeks reelection for a smaller nation to tackle Nigeria’s security problems, diplomats said.
In their forward base in the town of Gambaru on the Nigeria-Cameroun border, Chadian soldiers displayed dozens of guns seized from the insurgent and a burnt-out armoured vehicle painted with black and white Arabic script. “We turned back because Nigeria did not authorise us to go any further,” army spokesman Colonel Azem Bermandoa said.
Nigeria’s spokesman for operations in the North-east, Mike Omeri, said cooperation between Chadian and Nigerian forces has brought some major military successes and any issues would be resolved via existing command structures. But the Chadians say there have been no joint operations between the two forces. Chad’s offer to join a Nigerian offensive to capture Baga, site of one of Boko Haram’s worst atrocities in January, was rebuffed, Bermandoa said.
Officials from Chad, Niger and Cameroun say lack of cooperation from Nigeria has for months hampered efforts to put together a regional taskforce against Boko Haram. Chad was compelled to take unilateral action in January, under a deal that allows it to pursue terrorists into Nigeria, after Boko Haram violence started to choke off imports to its economy.
With Niger and Cameroun deploying thousands of troops on their borders, blocking escape routes for Boko Haram, the tide may be turning. In what Nigeria has branded a sign of desperation, the Islamist group has carried out wave of suicide attacks and threatened to disrupt the election.
At the forefront of fighting, the Chadian soldiers were claiming landslide victories while Nigeria predicted end of the terrorist group Boko Haram. For high-ranking Chadian military, the goal remains the capture or death of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.
An amateur military video reached Alwihda Info demonstrates the intensity of the fight between Chadian forces and Boko Haram fighters. According to a Cameroonian high ranking, there are three categories of combatants Boko Haram: The first category are the walking lambda combatants; The second category are a little more seasoned fighters in uniform; The third category are the elite, their officers.
The first category are usually more numerous, in hundreds. Since the beginning of its operation, the Chadian army has captured hundreds of Boko Haram fighters, mostly young people.