28 July 2014

Cameroon Bolsters Troops Against Boko Haram

Photo: Ngala Killian Chimtom/IPS
Sheik Oumarou Malam Djibring, a member of Cameroon’s Council of Imams, called on the country’s Muslims to be vigilant against the extremist group Boko Haram.

Cameroon has deployed huge numbers of its military to the northern part of the country following attacks by the Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram, who have taken several high profile hostages in the country.

Boko Haram militants have attacked Cameroon three times since Thursday. Eyewitnesses say that they ransacked and looted houses before seizing the traditional ruler, Muslim spiritual leader and mayor of Kolofata, Seini Boukar Lamine. The wife of Cameroon's deputy prime minister, Ahmadou Ali, was also abducted in an attack this Sunday.

The attacks come as Muslims living in Maroua, northern Cameroon, gather to celebrate the end of the fasting period of Ramadan. While mosques are full of people singing and praying, military helicopters can be seen circling overhead. The same scenario is repeated in towns and villages along the border with neighboring Nigeria.

At least 10 people were killed in Sunday's attacks according to government sources, while eyewitnesses told DW in Maroua that the figure is closer to 50 people. There is speculation that the attacks were carried out in revenge for last week's court decision sentencing 22 Boko Haram members in Cameroon to prison time of between 10 and 20 years.

"Rampant" killing in Cameroon's north

The spokesperson for Cameroon's military, Colonel Didier Badjeck, said they are deploying additional troops following intelligence reports that Boko Haram wants to seize and occupy Cameroonian territory. He added that the recent attacks have involved extremely violent fighting. "We had the most violent attack this time around with so many heavily armed Boko Haram assailants who infiltrated through Lake Chad," he said.

Boko Haram are believed to have attacked Cameroon via Lake Chad. Military are now patrolling the water.

Sawalda Gilbert witnessed the attacks in Kolofata. "It is inhuman. What is the world coming to when men are now kidnapping men for no reason?" She is concerned that international engagement with the problem is having little effect. "The president went to France and together with Francois Holande declared war on Boko Haram. But on the field we are not seeing any effort," she said, adding that more support is needed for the Cameroonian military. "Kidnappings are regular despite our soldiers' presence, this means that Boko Haram strategies are more than our soldiers can handle, so please come and rescue our soldiers," she told DW.

Honorine Banye is one of many people who have fled the town of Kousseri on the border with Chad, where the Cameroonian military killed 40 fighters said to be members of Boko Haram earlier this year. "The killing is so much, it is rampant," she said. Although she praised the government of Cameroon for deploying more soldiers, she added that more needs to be done. "I want to believe that the Cameroon government is not working hard enough. They should wake up and see what they can do to solve the situation."

The Mandara Mountains form part of Cameroon's largely unmarked border with Nigeria.

Government displays resolve

Government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma told DW that Cameroon as a state based on the rule of law would punish evil doers."Barbarism has hit our borders," she said, before appealing for anyone with information which could help Cameroonian defense and security forces to come forward. "This terrorist group is doomed to disappear," Tchiroma said in a reference to Boko Haram.

Despite efforts to set up a 2,800 man regional force, Boko Haram has stepped up cross-border attacks into Cameroon. The militants have kidnapped foreign nationals in northern Cameroon in the past, including a French family and Chinese workers.

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