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 CHAD Deby Ups Ante In Anti-Jihadist Fight In Sahel

Chad, hit on Monday by two deadly suicide attacks, is on the front line of the fight against jihadists in both Nigeria, home of the Boko Haram group, and Mali.

A long standing adversary of the jihadists, President Idriss Deby Itno, in power since 1990, has committed troops to the fight.

They first joined French forces in 2013 to counter the advance of jihad- ists who had occupied northern Mali the previous year.

In February this year they then launched a ground offensive in neigh- bouring Nigeria, leading the fight against the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, which is allied to the jihadist Islamic State group and which is destabilising the countries border- ing Lake Chad. Chad has committed around 5,000 soldiers to the operation, according to military sources.

In August 2014, France reorgan- ised its military presence in the region launching Operation Barkhane, devoted to the fight against terrorism in Africa’s Sahel region.

The force is headquartered in the Chadian capital, where France al- ready has a large military base.

N’Djamena will also host the head- quarters of the joint military force created on June 11 by Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin against Boko Haram.

The mainly desert nation of Chad in north central Africa is almost three times the size of the US state of Cali- fornia.

It remains one of the poorest coun- tries in the world despite its oil reserves, the main source of income. Production reached 100,000 barrels per day in 2013, according to the US energy department.

The oil revenues have allowed Chad to modernise its army and up- grade its road network, but civil society and the opposition have called for a better distribution of the oil wealth towards the population.

More than three-quarters of the population depend on subsistence crop farming and cattle raising, living on less than $2 a day.

The country has suffered years of conflict and instability since it gained independence in 1960. Since 1965 the north has lived through an armed rebellion led by Frolinat (National Liberation Front).

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