Eleven people including a Chadian army general and two other officers are to stand trial on charges of drug trafficking, judicial sources told AFP Saturday.
Six months ago, a vehicle carrying 246 cartons of the opiate painkiller Tramadol, with an estimated value of 12.3 billion CFA francs (18.8 million euros, $21 million), was seized, a judicial source said.
“There was another vehicle carrying the same value that managed to get away” the source added on condition of anonymity.
Among those charged, “are senior officers in the Chadian army and a director from the national security agency,” which is an intelligence unit, Justice Minister Djimet Arabi told AFP.
The judicial source identified the senior officers as a general and two others.
Alain Kagonbe, who spoke for the defence team, said the defendents had been arrested and that the period during which they should have been charged had expired.
“All of the defendents deny the charges,” he added.
An initial hearing was held on Friday, and the trial is to resume on July 3.
The Chadian army said Thursday it had wound up an offensive against Boko Haram jihadists in the Lake Chad border region in which 52 troops and 1,000 jihadists were killed.
Army spokesman Colonel Azem Bermendoa Agouna told AFP that the operation, launched after nearly 100 soldiers were killed last month, ended Wednesday after the Nigerian jihadists were forced out of the country.
“A thousand terrorists have been killed, 50 motorised canoes have been destroyed,” he said, referring to a large boat also called a pirogue.
It is the first official snapshot of the outcome of Operation Bohoma Anger, launched after Chad’s armed forces suffered their biggest one-day loss in their history.
Lake Chad is a vast, marshy body of water where the borders of Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon meet.
The western shores of the lake have been hit by jihadists crossing from northeastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram launched a bloody campaign of violence in 2009.
On March 23, jihadists mounted a deadly seven-hour assault on a Chadian army base at Bohoma, killing at least 98 troops, according to an official toll.
Chad declared departments near the lake “a war zone” in order to give the military free rein for the offensive.
The four countries bordering the lake on 2015 set up a formation called the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), also including Benin, to fight Boko Haram.
But Chad, whose forces have a relatively high standing in the Sahel, has shown frustration with the MNJTF following the Bohoma losses.
“Chad is alone in shouldering all the burden of the war against Boko Haram,” President Idriss Deby Itno complained last weekend.
“I met the commander of the MNJTF and asked him to take over.”
Boko Haram’s 11-year-old campaign has claimed tens of thousands of lives in northeast Nigeria and driven nearly two million people from their homes.
Separately, in Niger, the defence ministry in Niamey said its armed forces, in a joint operation with Chad, had inflicted “heavy losses” on Boko Haram in the lake region.
“Arms caches, logistical points and several boats were destroyed” and islands used as rear bases in the lake’s marshland were “bombarded from the air,” it said.
Landlocked and poor, Niger is facing jihadist attacks in opposite ends of the country — an insurgency that has spilled over from neighbouring Mali, and raids in the Lake Chad region by Boko Haram fighters.
In Burkina Faso, meanwhile, five soldiers were killed and three were wounded on Thursday when their unit came under attack from jihadists in Solle, in the northern province of Loroum, an army official said.
Around 4,000 people lost their lives last year in jihadist- or community-related violence in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, according to UN figures.
Chad has declared two departments near Lake Chad a “war zone”, giving local authorities more powers as they respond to an attack by Boko Haram jihadists that killed nearly 100 soldiers earlier this week.
In the Lake Chad region where the borders of Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger converge, the group has stepped up attacks this year, drawing on their knowledge of the vast marshland and islands.
On Monday, militants attacked an island army base in Bohoma, killing at least 98 soldiers in the worst militant assault ever on the country’s military.
“The departments of Fouli and Kaya will be declared ‘war zones’, according to a decree signed by President Idriss Deby Itno seen by AFP.
The government had already declared a state of emergency in the two departments that border Niger and Nigeria.
The measures allow local and miliary officials to prohibit traffic and also to search homes day and night.
Deby vowed a “lightning response” to the attack when he visited the site of the attack this week.
Chad has presented its military, considered one of the region’s more professional armies, as a bulwark against terrorism until Monday’s attack in Fouli department.
The jihadists emerged in Nigeria in 2009 before taking their insurgency to neighbouring countries, inflicting escalating losses in lives and economic damage.
One senior officer told AFP that the Bohoma garrison had been weakened recently after one battalion was dispatched elsewhere.
Chad has promised in recent months to send 480 soldiers to the “three-border area”, on the borders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, to fight against jihadist groups.
Chad has been dispatching troops outside its borders to cooperate in regional anti-jihadist operations, in exchange for funding. But those troops movements have been criticised at home as Chadians worry about the growing number of attacks in Lake Chad region.
Chad’s months-long mission fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria has ended and its 1,200-strong force has been withdrawn, an army spokesman told AFP on Saturday.
“It’s our troops who went to aid Nigerian soldiers months ago returning home. They have finished their mission,” spokesman Colonel Azem Bermandoa told AFP. “None of our soldiers remains in Nigeria,” he added, without specifying whether they might be replaced following Friday’s pullout.
“Those who have come back will return to their sector at Lake Chad,” Bermandoa said.
However, Chad’s general chief of staff General Tahir Erda Tahiro said that if countries in the region which have contributed to a multinational anti-jihadist force were in agreement, more troops will likely be sent in.
“If the states around Lake Chad agree on a new mission there will surely be another contingent redeployed on the ground,” Tahiro told AFP.
Boko Haram began the insurrection in Nigeria a decade ago, leading to at least 35,000 deaths with violence spilling over into Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
A Boko Haram faction aligned with Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) jihadists is highly active around Lake Chad where the group has training bases on the Niger border and regularly carries out raids on military bases and regional security forces.
Last month saw 14 people killed with 13 more listed as missing after an attack on a fishing village in western Chad.
Countries in the region have banded together to fight Boko Haram and ISWAP with support from civilian defence committees leading to Chad contributing 1,200 troops.
Those troops have now pulled back across the border to be “deployed in the Lake Chad region to strengthen security along the border,” a senior local official told AFP.
Cameroon says it is battling an upsurge in Boko Haram attacks and, according to an Amnesty International report published last month 275 people, including 225 civilians, were killed there last year.
Fourteen people were killed and 13 were missing after Boko Haram jihadists attacked a fishing village in western Chad on Tuesday, government officials said.
Violence from the Boko Haram insurgency started in Nigeria a decade ago but has since spread to neighbouring countries Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
“There were 14 dead, five wounded and 13 missing in the attack” near the village of Kaiga on the shores of Lake Chad, Dimouya Souapebe, the prefect of the region, told AFP on Wednesday.
Kaiga lies in marshland in a remote, sprawling region where the borders of the four countries — Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger — meet.
The village is about 60 kilometres (35 miles) from the border with northeast Nigeria, the springboard for Boko Haram raids and kidnappings in neighbouring countries.
“We know that there are always Boko Haram elements moving around the (border) area, so they are behind this attack,” Souabebe said.
“The attackers first came in a small group and then brought in reinforcements to attack the fishermen.”
The region’s governor, Noki Charfadine, gave a toll of at least nine dead.
He said the attack had taken place in a “red zone, where fishing is forbidden.”
Boko Haram launched its armed insurgency in northeastern Nigeria — a campaign that has killed 35,000 people and caused around two million to flee their homes.
The spread of violence to Chad, Cameroon and Niger has prompted the formation of a regional military coalition to fight the jihadists.
Boko Haram has since split in two, with the emergence of a branch allied to the Islamic State (IS) group, known as Islamic State Group in West Africa or ISWAP.
The other faction, loyal to the movement’s historic leader, Abubakar Shekau, is known for targeting civilians, including village attacks and suicide attacks.
The ISWAP, which has about 3,000 men grouped at Lake Chad, has been building its capacity and mainly targets the armed forces of countries in the region.
In Chad, four soldiers were killed by jihadists on December 2 in the attack on one of their positions on the shores of the lake. In recent months, many civilians have been killed or abducted in this area as well, mostly in Chad and Cameroon.
Even though the minister declined to grant an interview to journalists, his visit may not be unconnected with the recent phase of attacks allegedly carried out by ISWAP, the Boko Haram faction in the Lake Chad Basin.
“Muhammadu Buhari has asked me to convey his goodwill to all of you for your doggedness, resilience and hard work you’ve been putting in the northeast sector of our operations.
My purpose of coming here is to see all of you, discuss with your colleagues from Chad and see how we can improve our operational efficiency.”
Magashi while addressing the troops said he has been talking to Commanding Officers and assured that the troops’ welfare will be adequately taken care of.
“We have discussed at length with your officers they have told us your problems and everything that is needed for you to improve the conduct of this operation our prayer is that you continue with the good work you have been doing. And ensure that all that you’re doing will not be left unattended we will do our best to see that your welfare and motivation are well taken care of by the grace of God all of you will go back to your families and continue with your normal training in your career and the government and the people of Nigeria will never forget our heroes who have done us proud but have lost their lives,” Magashi told the troops.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has said that there are about 218,000 Nigeria refugees in Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic.
Addressing a news conference in Abuja on Wednesday, the UNHCR country representative, Mr Anthonio Canhandula, urged the Federal Government to create conditions that would facilitate the return of the refugees to the country.
Mr Canhandula added that Nigeria is currently housing 46,000 refugees from Cameroon, which is spread across Benue, Cross River and Taraba States.
He also noted that only 1.2 million of the 1.8 million accessible Internally Displaced Persons are receiving assistance – a situation which he believes requires urgent attention.
The jihadist insurgency, which broke out in north-eastern Nigeria a decade ago, has spilt over into neighbouring countries.
This year alone 140,000 people have been displaced by renewed Boko Haram violence and more than three million people endure food insecurity as farmers have been unable to plant crops, according to the United Nations.
In 2015, the Lake Chad countries, together with Benin, set up a combined force to fight Boko Haram with the help of local groups of armed citizens.
Boko Haram, loosely translated as “Western education is banned”, wants to create a hard-line Islamic state.
At least 52 people died when an illegal gold mine collapsed in northern Chad this week, a government source said on Friday, with authorities still searching for more bodies.
Chad officials initially said as many as 30 people may have died when the mine caved in on Tuesday in Kouri Bougoudi, in Tibesti province, near the Libyan border, an area rife with illicit mining and smugglers.
Another source who was part of a mission to visit the area also confirmed the new death toll.
“There are 37 injured, including 21 seriously,” the second source said.
Tibesti is largely lawless and home to numerous gangs and traffickers seeking to profit from a gold rush in the area.
Clashes in January between Arab miners from Libya and miners from Chad’s Ouaddai community left “dozens” dead, according to security and mining sources.
Kouri Bougoudi has been the centre of clashes among ethnic, local and foreign groups since 2012 and 2013 after the discovery of gold deposits there.
The Chadian government has authorised mining companies to exploit the deposits but rights groups accuse authorities of using Arab fighters to force a takeover of the area.
Chad, a huge impoverished country in the heart of the Sahel, has been chronically unstable since it gained independence from France in 1960.
In March, the Chadian government decided to set up a joint security force in Tibesti and closed the border with southern Libya — a major source of trafficking and a haven for Chadian rebels.
That move was followed in August by a decree by President Idriss Deby declaring a state of emergency in Tibesti and two other provinces.
Many people were feared dead, possibly 30, after an illegal gold mine collapsed in northern Chad close to the Libyan border, officials said Thursday.
Defence Minister Mahamat Abali Salah told AFP the mine caved in early Tuesday in a zone beset by illicit mining and trafficking at Kouri Bougoudi in Tibesti province.
There were “many deaths, for sure,” Salah said.
“A mine collapsed. I cannot say exactly how many fatalities there are but there are many people working in these mines, so there must be many deaths, for sure,” Salah told AFP by phone.
An army officer who requested anonymity spoke of “around 30 deaths,” basing the figure on witness accounts with the army yet to arrive on the scene which is in a remote small town.
A local lawmaker spoke for his part of “a dozen deaths,” basing his tally on what witnesses had related to him.
“I cannot give you an exact tally as we rushed troops to the scene this morning,” said Salah, saying he expected a report later.
Tibesti, the province where the accident occurred, is largely lawless and home to numerous gangs and traffickers seeking to profit from a gold rush.
Clashes in January between Arab miners from Libya and miners from Chad’s Ouaddai community left “dozens” dead, according to security and mining sources.
Kouri Bougoudi has itself been the scene of clashes among rival ethnic, local and foreign groups since 2012 and 2013 after the discovery of gold deposits there.
The Chadian government has authorised mining companies to exploit the deposits but rights groups accuse authorities of using Arab fighters to orchestrate a takeover of the area.
In March, the Chadian government decided to set up a joint security force in Tibesti and declared the border with southern Libya — a major source of trafficking and a haven for Chadian rebels, but also the region’s main food supply — to be closed.
This move was followed in August by a decree by President Idriss Deby declaring a state of emergency in Tibesti and two other provinces.