Chadian forces fighting in northeastern Nigeria seized the town of Dikwa from Islamist Boko Haram militants in an offensive in which hundreds of the insurgents were killed, the Chadian army said.
At least 34 Chadian soldiers were wounded on Monday in the fighting for Dikwa, 90 kilometers (55 miles) east of the Borno state capital of Maiduguri, Colonel Agouna Azem Bermendoah said in a statement broadcast on state radio in the capital, N’Djamena, on Tuesday. The troops were injured when a suicide bomber detonated a truck laden with gas cylinders, he said.
“Our defense forces advanced street by street, killing a large number of Islamists,” Bermendoah said. “Some managed to flee the city,” he said. Mop-up operations are continuing.
Chad is intervening in neighboring Nigeria to force Boko Haram out of towns it holds as part of a self-declared caliphate. Its push comes as the militia extends its campaign to impose Shariah, or Islamic law, staging deadly cross-border attacks in nations including Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
The violence in northeastern Nigeria, where the six-year insurgency has been focused, has forced a million people from their homes and tens of thousands to flee the country.
By the weekend, the total number of Nigerian refugees who crossed into Cameroon had surged to an estimated 66,000, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday. About 100,000 people have sought refuge in Niger and 18,000 in western Chad, UNHCR said.
“Given the rapidly evolving security situation in the region and the prospect of new refugee influxes, we are discussing with authorities the feasibility of setting up of a second refugee camp, further away from the insecure border,” Nasir Fernandez, UNHCR’s senior emergency coordinator in Cameroon, said in a statement posted on the agency’s website.
Boko Haram, which roughly translates to “western education is a sin,” killed more than 4,700 people mainly in the north last year, double the number who died in 2013, according to estimates from Verisk Maplecroft, the Bath, U.K.-based risk consultancy.
The militant group on Monday posted a video showing two men accused of spying who were beheaded.