THE central African nation of Chad has banned the full-face Muslim veil and ordered security forces to seize burqas from markets after 33 people were killed in suicide bombings blamed on Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram.
“Wearing the burqa must stop immediately from today, not only in public places and schools but throughout the whole of the country,” Prime Minister Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet said in a speech to religious leaders on Wednesday, a day before the start of the holy Muslim festival of Ramadan.
Any type of clothing that leaves only the eyes visible was a form of “camouflage” and was now banned, he added, asking the religious leaders to spread the message in their mosques, churches and holy places.
Prime Minister Deubet said instructions have been given to security forces to “go into the markets and to seize all the burqas on sale and burn them”.
Anyone found wearing a burqa would be “arrested, tried and sentenced in summary proceedings”, he said.
Monday’s bombings, the first such attacks in the capital of Muslim-majority Chad, have been blamed on Boko Haram extremists who have previously carried out bloody assaults on villages along the border with Nigeria.
The Islamist militants have in the past used female suicide bombers to launch attacks by hiding explosive devices under their clothes.
Chad’s government on Tuesday declared three days of national mourning for the 33 people killed and more than 100 others wounded in the blasts.
President Idriss Deby said he was “not surprised” the country has been targeted because of the leading role its army is playing in a regional offensive against Boko Haram fighters operating out of north-eastern Nigeria.
Chad said on Thursday that its warplanes bombed Boko Haram positions in neighbouring Nigeria to avenge twin suicide bombings in the capital this week blamed on the jihadists.
Chad’s military vowed it would continue its “merciless” pursuit of the Islamist insurgents “so that no drop of spilt Chadian blood goes unpunished”.
“In response to the cowardly and barbaric acts perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists … the armed forces carried out reprisal air strikes on the terrorists’ positions in Nigerian territory on Wednesday,” the military said in a statement.
Six Boko Haram bases were destroyed in the air raids, which caused “considerable human and material losses”, it said, without giving further details.
Monday’s attacks on the police headquarters and a police academy in N’Djamena were the first in the capital of the central African country, which has taken a lead role in a regional offensive against the Nigeria-based Boko Haram.
Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Benin and Cameroon agreed last week to set up a regional task force of 8700 soldiers, police officers and civilians, based in N’Djamena.
Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau had threatened several times to attack Chad and other countries that joined forces against the militants, whose bloody six-year insurgency is increasingly spilling across Nigeria’s borders.
Although Boko Haram has yet to claim responsibility for the bombings, France, which relies heavily on N’Djamena in the fight against jihadist groups in the Sahel region, has accused the militants of being behind the attack.