23 dead, 101 wounded in suicide bomb attacks targeting police in Chad, Boko Haram blamed

N'DJAMENA (AFP/REUTERS) - At least 23 people were killed on Monday when suicide bombers blew themselves up in attacks targeting police in Chad, a country on the frontline of the fight against Boko Haram.

Another 101 people were wounded in the simultaneous bombings outside the police headquarters and police academy in the capital N'Djamena, according to a government statement read on national radio.

It said four "terrorists" were also killed, but did not give details. Earlier, a police official had said two suicide bombers carried out the attacks.

"Boko Haram is making a mistake by targeting Chad,"Communications Minister Hassan Sylla Bakari said on state television. "These lawless terrorists will be chased out and neutralised wherever they are."

Mr Bakari did not give further details, but Interior Minister Abderahim Bireme Hamid told Reuters earlier that there had been at least one suicide attack at police headquarters. One witness at the central police station told Reuters by telephone that he had seen three bodies on the ground. Photos circulated on Twitter of several blood-stained bodies and damaged motorbikes reportedly used in the attack.

The attacks were the first such bombings in the capital of the north-central African nation, where security has been beefed up since Chad joined the fight against Boko Haram earlier this year.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, which came as police cadets were attending a training course at the academy.

The government statement said the "situation is under control".

Large numbers of Chad's security forces were seen taking up positions on the streets of the capital after the attacks.

President Idriss Deby was expected to return home during the day from an African Union summit in Johannesburg, an official said.

The former French colony is part of a four-nation coalition also including Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger that was created to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency as the group steps up cross-border attacks.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has on several occasions threatened to attack Chad and other countries in the coalition.

Paris condemned Monday's blasts, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman saying France "stands alongside Chad and its partners in the fight against terrorism".

Chad also is a close ally of France in its counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane in five countries in the Sahel region and the French army has set up its headquarters for the campaign in N'Djamena.

Last week, Abuja hosted a summit where Nigeria and fellow coalition members plus Benin rubber-stamped an 8,700-strong regional force to replace the current four-nation grouping.

The long-awaited Multi-National Joint Task Force, which was due to have been operational in November, has its headquarters in N'Djamena, under a senior Nigerian officer.

Boko Haram has been waging a six-year campaign of violence in northeastern Nigeria that has left at least 15,000 people dead and increasingly spilled across borders.

Chad's involvement in the fight against Boko Haram began in January when Deby sent troops to assist neighbouring Cameroon, whose far northern region was coming under attack from the rebels.

More than 70 Chadian soldiers have died in operations against the Islamists, including attacks around Lake Chad where the borders of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger meet.

Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari, who has vowed to make crushing Boko Haram the priority of his rule, visited Chad as well as Niger earlier this month to build up the regional coalition against the Islamists.

"Boko Haram declared that they are in alliance with ISIS, so terrorism has gone international. They are in Mali, they are in Nigeria, they are in Syria, they are in Iraq, they are in Yemen," he told AFP at the summit in South Africa on Monday.

"It's an international problem now," he said.

Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates as "Western education is forbidden", aims to create an Islamic caliphate in the territories it controls and earlier this month declared allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Some of the 1.5 million people made homeless by the violence have fled to Chad, a poor, largely desert landlocked country.