N’Djamena, Chad, June 16- Twenty three people were killed and more than 100 wounded in twin suicide bombings targeting police in the Chadian capital Monday, with the government blaming Boko Haram militants for the bloodshed.
They were the first such attacks in the capital of the central African nation, which has been on the frontline of the regional fight against the Nigerian Islamist group.
“Boko Haram chose the wrong target. These lawless and faithless terrorists will be flushed out and neutralised wherever they are,” the government said in a statement.
It said 23 people were killed and another 101 wounded in the simultaneous bombings outside the police headquarters and police academy in N’Djamena.
Four “terrorists” were also killed, it said without giving details.
Earlier, a police official had told AFP that two suicide bombers carried out the attacks, which came as police cadets were attending a training course at the academy.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but French President Francois Hollande also accused Boko Haram militants of being behind the “barbaric attack”.
“There is no doubt that Boko Haram is responsible and will be brought to justice for this new humanitarian horror,” Hollande said during a visit to Algiers, where the regional threat posed by jihadists was high on the agenda.
Chad, a former French colony, is a close ally of France in its counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region. The French army has set up its headquarters for the campaign in N’Djamena.
– ‘Crisis cell’ –
The Chadian government said the situation was quickly brought under control Monday, but the rare assault on the capital prompted the creation of a “crisis cell” and vehicles with darkened windows were banned from N’Djamena.
Chadian security forces were also seen taking up positions on the streets.
President Idriss Deby was expected to return home during the day from an African Union summit in Johannesburg, an official said.
In his absence, government ministers held a crisis meeting to discuss the bombings.
Chad is part of a four nation coalition also including Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger that was created to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency after the group stepped up cross border attacks.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has on several occasions threatened to attack Chad and other countries in the coalition.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon, in a statement, condemned Monday’s twin attacks and praised Chad “for its courageous role in the fight against Boko Haram”.
He also welcomed progress on sending an African Union backed multinational force to tackle the rebels.
The UN Security Council also issued a statement condemning the attacks “in the strongest terms”, and expressed its condolences to the families of the victims.
Last week, Abuja hosted a summit where Nigeria and fellow coalition members plus Benin rubber-stamped an 8,700 strong regional force to replace the current four nation grouping.
The long awaited Multi National Joint Task Force, which had originally been due to become operational in November, has its headquarters in N’Djamena, under a senior Nigerian officer.
Boko Haram has been waging a six year campaign of violence in northeastern Nigeria that has left at least 15,000 people dead and increasingly spilled across borders.
– ‘International problem’ –
Chad’s involvement in the fight against Boko Haram began in January when Deby sent troops to assist neighbouring Cameroon, whose far northern region was coming under attack from the rebels.
More than 70 Chadian soldiers have died in operations against the Islamists, including attacks around Lake Chad where the borders of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger meet.
Nigeria’s new President Muhammadu Buhari, who has vowed to make crushing Boko Haram a priority, visited Chad and Niger earlier this month to build up the regional coalition against the Islamists.
“Boko Haram declared that they are in alliance with ISIS (Islamic State), so terrorism has gone international. They are in Mali, they are in Nigeria, they are in Syria, they are in Iraq, they are in Yemen,” he told AFP at the summit in South Africa on Monday.
“It’s an international problem now,” he said.
Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates as “Western education is forbidden”, aims to create an Islamic caliphate in the territories it controls and in March declared allegiance to the Islamic State group.