In 2014 Boko Haram terrorists carried out numerous attacks on Nigerian army positions only to flee back the border into northern Cameroon. The Nigerian Air Force introduced for the first time of the war, the F-7Ni fighter jet strictly for high-speed interdiction missions. President Goodluck Jonathan reached out to the Cameroonian government for permission to pursue and strike Boko Haram fighters that flee into of parts of northern Cameroon.
That request was denied. To Cameroons President Paul Biya, this would mean that the Nigerian Air Force is actively prosecuting a war on Cameroonian soil against the wishes of the Cameroonian government.
Operationally, it might not matter that much, since the Cameroonian army have air defense radars that operate in the northern part of Cameroon, let alone bring anti-aircraft guns in the area that Nigerian fighters jets would have to dodge. But the Nigerian government did not see the value in violating the territorial sovereignty of Cameroon as only escalation might follow. Nigeria hoped that with time the Cameroonian military might move closer to outright cooperation with Nigeria and allow Nigerian jets and helicopters to chase insurgents back across the border.
But all that changed when Boko Haram went rogue and started carrying out attacks in Cameroon, Niger and Chad. With Nigeria unable to stop cross border attacks Cameroonian elite soldiers began entering Nigeria in search of the Boko Haram terrorists. Be that as it may, mutual acrimony is the currency of the Nigeria-Cameroon relationship, not clean breaks. Yaounde knows when not to cross the line.
The Chadians on the other hand are not averse to pushing the envelope. Its belicose rhetorics and aggrandizment is often matched by action. For instance in June 2015, Chadian SU-25 Frogfoot and Mi-17sh helicopters carried out airstrikes on Boko Haram positions in Nigerian territory in Borno to avenge twin suicide bombings in Chad’s capital that were blamed on the jihadists.
Citing the “cowardly and barbaric acts perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists”, which killed 33 people in N’Djamena two days earlier, the Chadian military said that it had “carried out reprisal airstrikes on the terrorists’ positions in Nigerian territory”.
Six Boko Haram bases were destroyed in the air raids, which caused “considerable human and material losses”, their military said in a statement. Chad would continue its “merciless” pursuit of the insurgents “so that no drop of Chadian blood spilt goes unpunished”, the statement added. To save face, President Goodluck Jonathan said the Chadian airstrikes had been agreed upon and authorized. Idris Derby gave a pess release debunking President Jonathans claim and insisting it was a unilateral strike. Such is the confidence level of the Chadians military .
Never has the Nigerian military carried out unilateral strikes on the territory of any of its neighbours. But the Metele attacks may have changed that.
Barely a week after the gruesome Matele attack by Boko Haram insurgents that claimed the lives of over 100 Nigerian soldiers and greatly embarrassed the Buhari administration, which couldn’t have come at a worse possible time as the Presidential election draws near.
The Nigerian Air Force struck back at the insurgents. Vectored by surveillance planes, Nigerian ground attack jets struck Boko Haram fighters caught in the open by a Beechcraft King Air 350i ISR aircraft, destroying over a dozen vehicles and gun trucks.
Seven “technicals” (Hillux suv mounted with machine guns and, in some cases 30mm anti-aircraft gun) however escaped the initial strike and raced across the border into Chadian territory.
NIgerian Air Force F-7Ni fighter jets on full afterburners went in hot pursuit right into Chadian airspace where the insurgents and stolen armed vehicles were destroyed.
Other reports have however surfaced that the terrorists behind the Matele attacks are not Nigerians as they spoke Arabic, French and other foreign languages. This suggests that the terrorists behind the Matele attacks may not be Boko Haram fighters after all.
This development comes days after President Buhari, in a rare feat of anger declared “THIS MADNESS MUST END”, declaring that the war against terrorism is “a must win’’.
It is a must win war. I want to encourage our troops not to be distracted by speculations but remain focused and committed to the task of eliminating Boko Haram from the surface of the earth.
the President said while declaring open the 2018 Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference.
I want to reassure you that as your Commander-In-Chief, I will do everything within my power to continue empowering you by providing all the necessary equipment, force multipliers and enablers required for you to prevail on the field.
“I also want you to be aware that I am currently looking into measures to improve your entitlements and welfare generally,’’ he added.
This will be the first time Nigerian attack jets will hit targets inside Chadian territory. This coming just weeks after the Nigerian Air Force announced it will now deploy and launch attack jets from bases in Difar, Niger Republic, represents a changing dynamic of Nigeria’s application of air power in the region.