Chad has intercepted a large cache of different types of weapons sent from ISIS affiliate in Libya and going to Boko Haram insurgents in the Lake Chad region.
The weapons were seized two weeks ago, underscoring the increasing ties between Boko Haram and the Islamic State, which now has a foothold, from its northern base of Sirte, south of Libya, next door to Chad.
Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, commander of US special operations in Africa made this revelation in Ndjamena today as US ambassador to the United Nations; Samantha Power came for a visit.
The Boko Haram-IS nexus may pose the greatest immediate threat to the Lake Chad region, Bolduc said.
Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, right, accompanied by U.S. State Department Principal Deputy Secretary for African Affairs Bruce Wharton, speaks to members of the media outside the U.S. Embassy in Chad in N’Djamena, Chad.
Although Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State last year, the operational connection has been unclear.
Bolduc said the groups clearly share “tactics, techniques, and procedures,” from the way they conduct complex ambushes and set improvised explosive devices like roadside bombs, to how they undertake high-profile attacks on hotels.
“You can, I think, draw a conclusion,” Bolduc told reporters. The implication was that the weapons were sent by the Islamic State, which has established a foothold along Libya’s Mediterranean coast, near the city of Sirte.
[Samantha Power, left, listens as Chad President Idriss Deby Itno, center, answers questions from members of the media]
Given the range of threats here, he said the “Lake Chad Basin region is Ground Zero” in the fight against extremism in Africa.
U.S. officials warned of deepening links between the Islamic State and Boko Haram and prodded Chad’s ruling strongman to introduce reforms for the sake of long-term stability.
The visit to Chad by America’s U.N. envoy, Samantha Power, and top U.S. military officials highlights the country’s precarious position dealing with a multitude of hostile militant groups and unstable neighboring governments. It also underscores the impoverished, land-locked country’s growing geopolitical value.
Boko Haram has launched attacks on Chad’s territory from its base in Nigeria to the southwest. The Islamic State and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb lurk in chaotic and lawless Libya to the north. To the east is Sudan’s Darfur region; to the south is the Central African Republic, still recovering from years of interethnic conflict.
Stressing the civilian aspect to defeating Boko Haram, a once indigenous Nigerian militant movement whose rebellion has morphed into a regional force, Samantha Power stressed the need to bolster economic development, job opportunities, and political inclusiveness.
The message carried added weight, coming less than two weeks after Chad held elections that are widely expected to return Deby for a fifth term as president. Deby has led the country since 1990. Election results haven’t yet been announced.
“We noted how far Chad has come from the dark days of dictatorship to today,” Power said.
President Idriss Deby rejected opposition claims that some 60 security forces who voted against him in the elections have since disappeared.
“There are no disappearances,” he stated. “They will be presented on television, in front of the world.”
The 63-year-old Deby, who seized power himself in a coup after helping Chad defeat Libya in the 1980s, said Washington and other powers were partly to blame for the Boko Haram-IS threat. He said they are destabilizing Libya through their effort to install a functioning government.
“The international community is imposing a unity government from outside Libya that will fail,” Deby said.
*Source: AP report