Chad decrees state of emergency in Lake Chad region

The Lake Chad region also borders Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon and and is frequently targeted by Boko Haram Islamists (AFP Photo/Philippe Desmazes) (AFP/File)

N'Djamena (AFP) - Chad's government Monday decreed a state of emergency in the flashpoint Lake Chad region Monday, which also straddles Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger and is frequently targeted by Boko Haram Islamists.

The announcement came as two female suicide bombers staged a fresh attack on a mosque in northern Cameroon, killing three people, and a day after a similar attack killed two people in Chad.

Under the decree, the governor of the remote region will have the authority to ban the circulation of people and vehicles, search homes and recover arms, the government announced following an extraordinary cabinet meeting.

The government added that health, education and economic development in the area must also be a priority, as authorities struggle to stem Boko Haram's recruitment drive.

"President (Idriss) Deby has ordered the minister of finance to unlock a fund of three billion CFA Francs (4.5 million euros, $4.8 billion) for development in the region," according to an official statement read on national radio.

Since the start of the year, the Chadian army has been on the front line of a regional military operation against Boko Haram, whose attacks have spread from northeast Nigeria, its traditional stronghold, to the neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

Chad's Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat, speaking at a security forum in Dakar, called on other African nations to give his country more financial support in the fight.

Boko Haram, affiliated with the Islamic State group operating in Syria and Iraq, has been hit hard by the offensive, losing territory, but has launched a wave of attacks and bombings in response.

The jihadists, believed to be hiding out in Nigeria's Sambisa forest and the lake's many islands, are held responsible for 17,000 deaths and for making 2.5 million people homeless in their six-year campaign of violence.

- 'Wanted' -

In Nigeria, which has suffered the worst of Boko Haram's bid to establish a hardline Islamic state, the military said it has made its first arrests after publishing a list of the 100 "most wanted" jihadist suspects.

Army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman said in a statement late on Sunday that one man whose photograph featured on the poster was spotted and held at Abuja airport.

"Chindo Bello was apprehended by aviation security as he was boarding (an) Aero Contractors' flight to Lagos," he said.

No further details were given about Bello or when he was held but Usman said security agents were tipped off and the arrest was made "as he attempted to flee".

He was handed over to military intelligence for questioning, he added.

On Monday evening, Usman said a second man, identified as a Cameroonian national called Ishaku Wardifen, was held by troops at a checkpoint in Adamawa state, northeast Nigeria.

The "most wanted" poster, published late last month, appeals for public help in tracking down suspected Boko Haram members.

The group's leader Abubakar Shekau features twice in the rows of colour photographs, reflecting the military's belief he is in fact a composite character played by lookalikes.