At least 36 people were killed in Chad Saturday in what appeared to be a string of coordinated suicide attacks targeting a village housing thousands of Nigerian refugees that had fled Islamic extremist violence.
The five suicide bombers behind the attacks in Baga Sola, on the shores of Lake Chad, have been identified as two women, two children and a man, according to a statement from government spokesman Hassan Sylla Bakari.
Female suicide bombers hit the market in Baga Sola when it was at its busiest Saturday, killing at least 16 people, the director general of Chad’s gendarmerie, General Banyaman Cossingar, said. A second group of suicide bombers also targeted a nearby refugee camp, killing dozens more.
“There are bodies everywhere, a head here, a leg there, everyone is in a state of panic,” a resident said on the condition of anonymity.
There were conflicting reports on the number of wounded. While the government’s official count was 48, the UNICEF said at least 53 people were wounded, including 14 children.
“There were three explosions at the Baga Sola market and two explosions near the Dar-es-Salam refugee camp. From our information, the explosion was not in the refugee camp, but in a part of the village nearby,” police spokesman Paul Manka said, noting that two of the bombings were near the refugee camp, but not actually inside it.
Thousands of refugees
For months, Baga Sola has been home to thousands of people who already had fled deadly Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria. The United Nations says the Dar-es-Salam camp now has just over 3,000 refugees, and can house up to 15,000 people.
The village is in the Lake Chad region near the border with Nigeria, where Boko Haram first launched its insurgency six years ago. According to Amnesty International the uprising has so far killed 20,000 people.
While Boko Haram has attacked Chad’s capital before, the bombings on Saturday appear to be the largest and most elaborate staged yet in the country’s lake region.
Chad has become a major military ally of Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram, which earlier this year threatened to retaliate.
In June and July, Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, was rocked by a series of suicide attacks that killed dozens of people – the first such attacks since Boko Haram threatened Chad
Boko Haram, which has pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group, has also stepped up attacks in Nigeria and neighboring countries since Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took office in May pledging to halt the uprising.
Boko Haram has used dozens of young girls and women in recent suicide bombings in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, raising fears it is using kidnap victims to target countries involved in setting up a regional force to combat the extremists.