Chad’s deployment of experienced troops to Niger is likely to halt Boko Haram’s territorial advance around Bosso, yet retaliatory terror attacks are likely around Lake Chad and the Chadian capital.
In November 2015, EXX Africa correctly forecast that Boko Haram, after having been pushed back from its territory in northeast Nigeria, would begin to advance on Niger, Cameroon, and Chad. We then also forecast that increasingly sophisticated Islamic State-inspired attacks by Boko Haram would be likely to extend even beyond the Lake Chad region, posing higher risk to government assets, aviation, and hotels in the Chadian capital N’Djamena and other regional cities. Boko Haram tactical groups have been mostly dispersed in Nigeria, with remnants of the group still based in Nigeria’s Sambisa Forest and remote border regions with Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. EXX AFRICA had previously warned that Nigerian military advances against Boko Haram in the group’s northeastern heartland would increasingly threaten security in western Chad, as well as northern Cameroon and border regions of Niger. On 7 June, 2,000 Chadian troops supported by tanks and armoured personnel carriers were deployed into neighboring Niger and mobilized towards the Nigerien town of Bosso, which was captured by Boko Haram on 3 June. Since then Nigerien forces have attempted to retake the town, but have been repeatedly repelled by Boko Haram fighters. On 7 June, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou and Chadian President Idriss Deby also began talks on joint operations to defeat Boko Haram. The Chadian troops are due to link up with Nigerien forces at Diffa and then stage a joint counter-attack to recapture Bosso. Chadian troops are by far the most capable military forces in the region and were instrumental in pushing back the Islamist militant group’s advances in northeast Nigeria in early 2015 and curbing al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali in 2014.
Risk implications: The deployment of Chadian military forces and hardware to Bosso is very likely to repel Boko Haram’s advance and limit its ability to hold territory in Niger. More strained relations between Chad and Cameroon make a joint military operation in Cameroonian territory in the country’s Far North province less likely should Boko Haram tactical groups stage more concerted attacks there. However, the deployment indicates that the Chadian military remains the most effective force to curb Boko Haram’s territorial advance.
Yet, Boko Haram will continue to stage retaliatory terror attacks in response to the Chadian offensive. Increasing sophistication of the attacks, most likely inspired by Islamic State (IS) Libyan affiliates, and Chad’s deteriorating economic conditions indicate that the threat posed by Boko Haram will continue to increase over the next year. In the Lake Chad region, NGO employees and check points operated by security forces will be at highest risk of attack. A key priority for Boko Haram and IS will be to gain control of long-time smuggling routes to boost revenue flows for the groups and ensure freedom of movement of militants travelling between Libya and the Lake Chad region.
More sophisticated suicide bombings are likely to extend beyond the western region around Lake Chad to the Chadian capital N’Djamena. The greatest risk of gun and bomb attacks will be to government assets and security forces, as well as places frequented by expatriates including international hotels, including those hosting airline staff. Aviation assets are also likely to face greater risk of attack across the western region, although the main international airport’s security perimeter is unlikely to be perpetrated in case of an attack. The oil industry and especially the oil pipeline running between southern Chad and Cameroon are also less likely to be successfully targeted given the industry’s distance from Boko Haram theatres of operation and relatively effective security measures surrounding oil assets.
Robert Besseling is the founder and executive director of EXX AFRICA, a specialist intelligence company that reports on African political and economic risk to businesses. He holds an MA (Hons.) in History from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He also has an MBA and a PhD in African political and economic history.
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