IT has been a bad week at the office for jihadist militants in Africa.
Clashes between Chadian troops and Nigerian Boko Haram fighters during a raid in neighbouring Nigeria have killed 200 Islamists and nine soldiers, Chad’s military said Wednesday.
“We regret nine dead and 21 wounded. On the enemy side: more than 200 deaths…,” a statement said in reference to clashes on Tuesday, adding that the toll could rise since clean-up operations in the Nigerian town of Gamboru were continuing
In Cameroon soldiers clashed with Boko Haram fighters in the border town of Fotokol on Wednesday as the Islamists fled the offensive by Chad’s army, security sources said.
The Islamists “entered this morning,” a Cameroonian security source said, after Chadian troops took Gamboru just across the border.
In a deserted Gamboru, Chadian forces carried out clean-up operations after entering the town on Tuesday and retaking it from Boko Haram, which seized control months ago.
“When the Chadians entered Gamboru, the Boko Haram members who were in the town and some villages fled to meet up this morning in Fotokol,” the security source said.
While a bridge separates Fotokol from Gamboru, it is possible to also cross over from surrounding villages.
Chadian jet fighters had also bombed Gamboru before its troops entered.
The regional military efforts have highlighted the failure of Nigeria’s army to stop the six-year Boko Haram insurgency.
Nigeria’s military said on Tuesday the country’s sovereignty was not compromised despite the presence of Chadian ground troops and claimed to be “driving the present onslaught”.
The offensive comes at a crucial moment, with Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary elections set for February 14.
Shabaab attacked in Somalia
On the east coast of the continent, meanwhile, the Somalia-based Al Shabaab militia continued to suffer setbacks as a US drone aircraft targeted a senior figure in the organisation, the Pentagon said Tuesday, in the latest bid to take out leaders of the Al-Qaeda-linked group.
US special operations forces “using unmanned aircraft and several Hellfire missiles” carried out the strike on Saturday against Shabaab’s chief of external operations and planning, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters.
“We are still assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information when and if appropriate.
The operation was conducted at about 1400 GMT on Saturday south of Mogadishu. The Pentagon identified the Shabaab senior figure as Yusuf Dheeq.
Somali government officials and witnesses told AFP over the weekend that a house used by members of the Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab militants had been hit in an air raid on Saturday.
In September last year, the Shabaab’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed in a US strike. And Washington carried out another air raid in December that Somali officials said took out a top Shabaab intelligence figure.
If the raid proved successful, “if he no longer breathes, then this is another significant blow to al-Shabaab and their ability to conduct, plan, prepare for and strike against targets inside and outside Somalia,” Kirby said.
There are roughly 100 US military advisors, mainly Green Beret special forces, deployed to Somalia to help the government in its fight against Shabaab, officials said.
The Shabaab militants are fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally backed government and have also carried out a string of revenge attacks in neighbouring countries, most famously the Westgate mall attack in Kenya’s capital Nairobi in September 2013, in which nearly 70 people were killed and hundreds wounded in a three-day siege.
Mixed results in Libya
In Libya, the situation has been mixed.
Sixteen Libyan soldiers were killed and 38 wounded in clashes around an eastern Islamist stronghold and close to a key oil terminal, military officials said Tuesday.
“The army lost 11 soldiers… in violent clashes with radical Islamists after an army offensive launched on Monday” near the town of Derna, said Colonel Ahmed al-Mashari.
He said the Islamist fighters had suffered “heavy losses” in the skirmishes. The jihadist Islamic State (IS) group that has seized chunks of Iraq and Syria is thought to have gained a foothold in Derna amid the chaos in Libya since the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Muammar Gadhafi.
Meanwhile, the Islamist-backed Fajr Dawn militia launched an offensive against troops loyal to Libya’s internationally recognised government around the key oil hub of Al-Sidra, a military spokesman said. Five soldiers died in the violence and another 13 were wounded, Colonel Ali al-Hassi said.
Oil is Libya’s main natural resource, with a pre-revolt output capacity of about 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd), accounting for more than 95% of exports and 75% of the budget. But production fell to about 350,000 bpd in December as an alliance of Islamist-led militias launched a bloody offensive to seize control of key terminals in the country’s so-called “oil crescent”.
More than three years after Gadhafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed revolt, the country remains awash with weapons and powerful militias, and has rival governments and parliaments.