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Nigeria’s Islamist group Boko Haram carried out their first known attack on the neighboring country of Chad early Friday, a lawmaker told NBC News.
The attack appears to be the latest example of Boko Haram exporting its campaign of violence beyond Nigeria’s borders and striking nations that have in recent weeks pledged troops to combat the militants. Boko Haram has vowed to carve out its own state based on hard-line Islamic law.
Around 30 fighters traveled across Lake Chad, which separates Nigeria and Chad, in three small boats known as "pirogues" at around 3 a.m. local time (9 p.m. ET Thursday), according to Ahmed Zanna, a Nigerian senator whose state borders the lake.
Zanna, who said he had been in contact with Chadian authorities, told NBC News that as many as five people had died in the attack in Ngouboua, including the village chief, before the militants were repelled by Chadian forces.
"We sent in our air force and they neutralized the three pirogues," a spokesman for the Chadian military told Reuters. "We are still combing the area."
Chad is home to some 17,000 refugees who fled across the lake after Boko Haram attacked the Nigerian fishing town of Baga in early January, killing countless people and torching thousands of buildings.
The United Nations' refugee agency, UNHCR, said it was looking into the attack on Ngouboua. "We were in contact with a refugee during the attack but the phone line went dead," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told a briefing in Geneva on Friday. "We are still trying to find out more about the situation there."
Nigeria's neighbors, Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Benin, have in recent weeks pledged troops to help combat the increasingly cross-border attacks of Boko Haram. Niger and Cameroon have experienced raids by the militants, but Friday’s attack is the first known raid on Chad.
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- Alexander Smith
Reuters contribute to this report.