Cameroon: Authorities Detain 30 Nigerians Allegedly Linked to Boko Haram

Nigerian military on patrol (file photo).

Cameroon authorities have detained 30 Nigerians who crossed the border Saturday on suspicion of links to Boko Haram Islamist militants. Police say the group of mainly women and children did not have permission to cross the border or identification cards, and failed to answer their questions, as

Cameroon security forces say they traced a bus transporting the detained suspects as it illegally crossed the border Saturday from Gamborou Ngala, a former stronghold of Boko Haram militants in Nigeria.

Chetima Malla Abba, the highest-ranking police officer in Cameroon’s Far North Region, which borders with Nigeria, says when stopped by police, the 30 Nigerians, mainly women and children, raised further suspicions.

He says they have been detained for not being able to present any identification papers, not being able to give the names of the people they claim they want to visit in Cameroon, and for entering the country from a Boko Haram alert zone without obtaining the necessary clearance.

Abba gave no further evidence for the Nigerians’ alleged links to Boko Haram. But police say they take such suspicious crossings from Nigeria very seriously.

Boko Haram militants, they say, have in the past disguised as commuters, merchants or even clerics to launch attacks in Cameroon. And the group has been known to use female suicide bombers.

Police in Maroua say they are investigating the Nigerians’ identities and reasons for coming to Cameroon.

When seen by a reporter, the detained 30 Nigerians, some in burqas, looked tired but in good health.

Nigeria authorities had no immediate reaction to the detentions.

The governor of the Far North Region, Midjiyawa Bakari, says Boko Haram attacks have diminished in recent months due to increased security measures.

But he warned Boko Haram looks for opportunities to infiltrate when many people are travelling across the border for religious or national holidays.

Bakari says he ordered the police and military to intensify checks around the border zone as Cameroon prepares for national and religious events. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that begins on May 5, international Labor Day on May 1, and National Day on May 20, Boko Haram tries to infiltrate and kill people as they gather around mosques and markets, he says.

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