Chad villagers live in fear after raid

2015-04-11 10:01
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Ngouboua - Almost two months after Boko Haram raided and pillaged her village in Chad, mother of seven Zara Isenik still lives in constant terror.

At the slightest strange noise, she says, she "runs to hide in the bush".

The cross-border raid by the ruthless Nigerian Islamists left mental and visible physical scars on a Lake Chad village that had previously been so peaceful that Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram used to come to seek sanctuary.

Many houses torched by the militants in Ngouboua have yet to be repaired. Livelihoods were ruined and fear reigns.

Children asleep

In the early hours of 12 February, jihadist militants crossed Lake Chad by boat under cover of darkness and torched the village of 6,000 people in a brutal onslaught.

Isenik and her children were asleep, while her husband - a Chadian army soldier - was on the frontlines fighting Boko Haram on Niger's frontier with Nigeria.

"They arrived early in the morning. We heard gunfire ringing out in the night and we understood," Isenik said in a soft voice, squatting with her back against the wall of her torched home.

As she fled, she says she crossed paths with a group of armed men who were "very young and were dressed in black" and carried Kalashnikovs. But they let her go and after just two hours, the assault was over.

"Everything was burnt. The TV, my clothes, my jewellery and the sacks of corn I was supposed to sell on the market."

The Boko Haram militants kicked off their raid by attacking a military post located at Ngouboua's entrance.

Chadian forces, backed by military aircraft, returned fire, routing the militants and destroying their small boats.

But even though Boko Haram did not occupy the Chadian village, its fighters were merciless in the destruction they sowed while retreating.

Assault rifle

The attack - Boko Haram's first on Chadian territory - marked an important escalation in the militants' bloody six-year campaign to establish a hardline Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria, which borders Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

The Chadian army has since deployed reinforcements around the village.

"Security has returned, but people are still scared," said a member of the security forces armed with an assault rifle and a grenade attached to his belt.

Located just 18km from the Nigerian border, the Ngouboua peninsula remains vulnerable, and difficult access would make it hard to quickly send new troops in by land in the event of new raids.

Read more on:    boko haram  |  chad  |  west africa

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