Lake Chad blasts blamed on Boko Haram kill at least 37

AFP-JIJI

Three explosions killed 37 people Saturday in a Chadian city on the shores of Lake Chad, security sources said, in the latest atrocity blamed on the Nigerian jihadi group Boko Haram.

Another 52 people were reportedly wounded in the attacks that struck at around 4 p.m., the sources said, with one blast targeting the fish market at Baga Sola and the other two occurring at a refugee camp on the outskirts of the city.

It was the first time Baga Sola was hit by such an attack, and the belief that it was relatively safe had led tens of thousands of Nigerian refugees and Chadians displaced by Boko Haram violence to seek shelter there.

“There are bodies everywhere, a head here, a leg there, everyone is in a state of panic,” a resident said on condition of anonymity, adding that “people are now trying to piece together the bodies.”

Rescuers have evacuated the wounded to an overwhelmed local hospital, a security source said, adding that 10 people were in “very critical” condition.

A humanitarian source said by phone on condition of anonymity that a teenager blew himself up at the market, while the other two blasts were the work of women wearing Islamic veils.

There was no official confirmation Saturday evening of the claim by the aid worker.

Previous attacks by Boko Haram have been carried out by women and children, likely abductees of the group. Last month, a girl thought to be about 12 years old killed six people in Nigeria when the explosives she was carrying went off outside a bus station.

Lake Chad is shared between Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

Climate change has reduced its surface in recent years, but it contains many islands and islets used by fishermen and its banks have dense vegetation, which makes infiltrations by Boko Haram Islamists into Chad much easier.

The Chadian Army has since the start of this year been involved in a regional offensive against Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group operating in Syria and Iraq.

Boko Haram has been hit hard by the multinational offensive, losing territory, but it has launched attacks and bombings in response.

In its latest deadly raid against troops seeking to quell the insurgency, Boko Haram killed 11 Chadian soldiers and wounded 13 on Tuesday, also in the Lake Chad region.

The Chadian Army said 17 jihadi fighters died in the fighting following the strike.

Amid speculation that Boko Haram’s shadowy leader Abubakar Shekau may have died, the group released a propaganda video this week saying he was still alive and has not been deposed as leader, though no footage of him has been seen since February.

Last month however an audio recording of Shekau emerged in which he disputed the Nigerian military’s claims of successes against his group.

At least 17,000 people have been killed, mainly in Nigeria, and more than 2.5 million made homeless since the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009.

On Wednesday at least 17 people were killed in a series of suicide bomb attacks in northeast Nigeria.