Islamists kill 92 soldiers in Chad in deadliest attack on country's military 

The country is instrumental in the fight against Islamists in the Sahel region

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French President Emmanuel Macron, centre, with Chad's President Idriss Deby, left
French President Emmanuel Macron, centre, with Chad's President Idriss Deby, left Credit: Guillaume Horcajuelo/AFP via Getty Images

Boko Haram jihadists have killed at least 92 Chadian soldiers and wounded 47 more in the deadliest attack ever on the central African country's military. 

The soldiers were ambushed on Monday on the island village of Boma in the Lake Chad area, which borders Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon.

The jihadists surrounded the troops and cut them down over seven hours down with machines guns and bombs. Reportedly, 24 army vehicles, some of them armoured, were destroyed. Afterwards, Boko Haram militants carried off looted weapons in speedboats. 

"I have taken part in many operations… But never in our history have we lost so many men at one time," said Idriss Deby, Chad's president of 30 years. 

Chad's small military is one of the most skilled and battle-hardened fighting forces in the Sahel, a vast region of western and north-central Africa that has been beset by Islamist insurgencies. The country is widely seen as a key ally of US and France in the fight against terror in Africa. 

Thousands of Chadian troops were instrumental in the French-led effort to drive jihadists allied to al-Qaeda out of northern Malian towns in 2013. Mr Deby has also launched successful campaigns against Islamist militants around the Lake Chad basin, where Nigeria, Chad's far richer and larger neighbour, has utterly failed to stop the bloodshed.

The news comes as a Nigerian military source told reporters at the Associated Press that Boko Haram jihadists had killed least 50 troops in Nigeria's northern Yobe state.

Mr Deby has come close to ruin several times in rebellions, coup attempts and economic crises since he came to power in 1990, but has always managed to pull through. With his powerful army and strong international backing, he has cultivated an air of invulnerability. However, there are fears that his regime is now on the ropes.

The Chadian state relies heavily on a small trickle of oil money it gets from wells in the south of the country. The recent global fall in oil prices has hit the state revenues hard. Reportedly the state is struggling to pay his military and fund his patronage networks. 

"The drop in oil prices are going to have huge consequences. Last time [oil prices fell] in 2014 it triggered massive demonstrations," says Marielle Debos, Associate Professor of Political Science at University Paris Nanterre and author of Living By The Gun In Chad. "The economy is very dependent on oil and civil servants are not being paid… The situation is very fragile."