Daesh-linked terrorists in Nigeria have reportedly killed 15 security members accompanying a convoy carrying Borno state Governor Babagana Umara Zulum in an ambush attack near the Lake Chad shore city of Baga.
The assailants used machined guns and grenade launchers to attack the convoy on Friday, killing eight police officers, three soldiers, and four members of a government-backed militia force, security sources were cited as saying in an AFP report, which further noted that the governor escaped the attack unharmed.
“The governor is safe and sound, but 15 security personnel were killed in the fighting with the terrorists,” said one of the sources as quoted in the report.
It further added that the armed assault was carried out as the convoy was passing through a village near the headquarters of the Multinational Joint Activity Drive Force (MNJTF), a naval coalition force formed by troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
According to another source, the governor was traveling to Baga as part of a preparation and assessment effort to arrange for the return of thousands of residents driven from the city by the Daesh-linked militants in 2014.
Zulum was then evacuated by helicopter to the garrison town of Monguno, 60 kilometres from the attack site, but returned to Baga with another high-security convoy, another source said.
The militants’ West Africa Province branch (ISWAP) maintains most of its camps on islands in Lake Chad and the area is known as a major bastion for the terror group.
ISWAP splintered from the original Boko Haram group in 2016 and has emerged as the dominant insurgent force within the area.
However, local authorities are still urging the displaced to return to the homes regardless of persisting concerns over the dangers of more terror attacks in the area.
Chad forces kill 20 Boko Haram militants, free hostages
The development came as Chadian troops killed 20 Daesh-linked Boko Haram terrorists and freed 12 civilians — including nine children – who were kidnapped in the Lake Chad region where borders of several countries come together, according to a government statement released on Friday.
The group, which originated in Nigeria in 2009, has established bases on islets dotting Lake Chad, a vast swampy expanse on the border between formerly colonized African nations of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, all of which remain influenced by their former colonizers, particularly France.
This is while the militants have stepped up their attacks across the region in recent months.
Earlier this month, Boko Haram militants raided a village in the restive region and kidnapped a group of civilians, Chad’s Communications Minister and government spokesman Cherif Mahamat Zene announced.
The army pursued the raiders and attacked them on Thursday in Barkalam, near the Nigerian border, “killing 15 terrorists” and “freeing 12 civilians,” he added.
A little later, the AFP report added, there was yet another armed encounter with Boko Haram terrorists at Bilabrim, leading to the killing of five more of them and the wounding of two Chadian soldiers.
The Chadian military forces launched a major offensive against Boko Haram militants in April after the killing of nearly 100 of their soldiers in an attack on one of its bases by the group.
At the time, Chad’s President Idriss Deby claimed to have driven out the Daesh-linked terror group, but attacks have continued despite the military operation. Deby, however, admitted in early August that “Boko Haram would still do a lot of damage” in Chad.
In Chad’s Lake Province alone, more than 360,000 people have fled their homes to escape terror attacks as well as flooding, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
More than 36,000 people have been killed since 2009 in the terror acts waged by Boko Haram in the region, displacing more than two million more people who still cannot return to their homes. The United Nations estimates that nearly 7 million people depend on humanitarian aid to survive in the Lake Chad region.
Militant attacks on rise across Africa amid foreign meddling
There have been a growing number of attacks by militant groups in former colonized countries across East and Central Africa amid the persistent presence of foreign military forces to protect their interests in the mineral-rich yet very impoverished nations.
Earlier this month, Daesh-linked militants in northern Mozambique seized two tiny islands in the Indian Ocean, threatening sea traffic in an area where a multi-billion-dollar offshore gas exploration project by French energy giant Total is under development.
The seizure of Mecungo and Vamisse islands came a month after the terrorists occupied the strategic port town of Mocimboa da Praia, which was used for cargo deliveries for the development of the gas project.
Following a coup against French-backed Mali’s president last month, the European Union suspended its military missions in the former French colony aimed at training the country’s army and police forces under the pretext of stabilizing the impoverished nation.
Drawn up in late 2012 to help Mali’s army regain control of the country after France drove out militants in the north, the EU military mission (EUTM Mali) has more than 600 soldiers from 28 European countries including EU and non-member states.
Its headquarters in Mali’s capital Bamako was targeted by militants in 2016.
The recent coup in Mali has raised the prospects of further political turmoil in the country which, like other countries in the region, is facing an expanding threat from Daesh-linked terrorists.
Militants and inter-ethnic violence in Mali and neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso killed at least 4,000 people in 2019, according to the United Nations.
This is while the entire Sahel region is seeing ever more brazen attacks by Daesh-linked militants despite the beefing up of national armies and the deployment of 5,100 French troops.
Other countries in the region, such as Nigeria, Somalia, and Mozambique have also seen a major surge in militancy and many instances of deadly attacks against military and civilian targets in the past decade.
Armed militia kills at least 15 people in western Ethiopia
An attack by an armed militia left at least 15 people killed in western Ethiopia on Friday, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said in a statement.
The pre-dawn attack, the latest security challenge for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government, follows another one earlier this month that happened in the same Metakal zone of Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz region, which borders Sudan, where 30 people were killed.
“Civilians are being subjected to repeated attacks with unmitigated cruelty in Benishangul-Gumuz,” said Daniel Bekele, the head of the EHRC. “Federal and regional authorities should take the required steps to enforce the rule of law and bring perpetrators to account.”
The Commission did not clarify what was behind the attacks and Abera Bayeta, the region’s peace and security head, was not immediately available to respond to calls for comments.
The Commission, however, said that after the Ethiopian National Defense forces engaged in a shootout with the militants in the area, calm was restored there by Friday afternoon.
This marks the latest incident of violence in the region. In June last year, men in camouflage uniforms killed over 50 people and injured 23 others in the same area.