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Boko Haram Launches First Attack in Chad

by VOA News February 13, 2015

Nigeria's Boko Haram extremist group has for the first time attacked a village in Chad, part of a widening insurgency that now has drawn in four countries.

Chadian officials say at least 12 people were killed during the early Friday violence in the village of Ngouboua, including the village chief. They say the militants crossed Lake Chad in four motorized boats early in the morning.

The militants set fire to parts of the village before being driven out by Chadian troops.

At least two militants were killed in the fighting, which included airstrikes from Chadian air units, Chadian security officials said. A local governor said two soldiers were killed.

It was the first such incursion into Chad, which has joined a regional offensive against the Islamist group that has terrorized northeast Nigeria for nearly six years.

The violence, and the inability of Nigerian security forces to quell the insurgency, prompted election officials to postpone Saturday's critical presidential election until March 28.

Attackers used motorized canoes to cross Lake Chad, which straddles the border, before dawn Friday, witnesses and officials said. They set fire to parts of the village of Ngouboua, and killed the village chief before being driven back by Chadian soldiers.

It wasn't immediately clear how many attackers were involved.

Bayana Kossingar, a regional governor, said the militants attacked a military camp in Ngouboua but soldiers repelled the assault. He said two soldiers were killed, along with five civilians and at least five militants.

Chadian helicopters later targeted militants' boats, Kimouya Swapébé, another regional official, said.

Boko Haram has previously raided towns on Nigeria's borders with Cameroon and Niger, but never Chad.

The U.N. refugee agency, meanwhile, said several days of clashes between Boko Haram and soldiers from Niger and Chad had left the town of Diffa in southeastern Niger 'virtually empty."

Some 50,000 people lived in Diffa before the fighting broke out, agency spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

"Thousands of people have fled other towns and villages of the region.While most of the internally displaced are being hosted in local communities, there are serious shortages there of food and clean water," Edwards said. "The situation is being exacerbated, as shops remain closed."

The extremists have killed thousands of people since launching their insurgency in 2009 and control dozens of towns in northeastern Nigeria. More than 157,000 people have fled to neighboring countrieslike Chad and almost 1 million have been displaced inside Nigeria, the U.N. agency said.

Underscoring its inability to fight Boko Haram, Nigeria recently agreed to set up a 8,700-troop regional force with Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin.

Cameroon announced it was sending more troops to the border village of Mabass after militants kidnapped 11 people there this week. Scores more have been abducted or killed in the last three weeks.

Yerrima Bouba, a resident of Mabass, told VOA that the attackers kidnapped seven young girls and four elderly women on Thursday and stole cattle and burned a local church and a mosque.

'They cannot defeat us because we are ready at any moment, any time to defeat the Boko Haram," said Elvis Madumbe, a soldier deployed to the border village. "We are waiting for them right now to see what they can do. We are prepared to fight Boko Haram."

VOA's Moki Edwin Kindzeka in Yaounde, Cameroon and Lisa Schlein in Geneva contributed to this report.

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