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Cameroon Continues Boko Haram Crackdown

Man claiming to be leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, in video screengrab, unknown location, Sept. 25, 2013.

Man claiming to be leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, in video screengrab, unknown location, Sept. 25, 2013.

Cameroon's military has killed 10 suspected Boko Haram members along its northern border with Nigeria and arrested 50 Nigerian businessmen in Cameroon for allegedly collaborating with the militants. Cameroon's crackdown is gaining intensity as Boko Haram has intensified its attacks in its native Nigeria.

The latest clash between Cameroon's military and suspected Boko Haram militants took place in Mora, along the border with Nigeria's Borno state, the heart of the five year old Boko Haram insurgency.

Mora resident and businessman Bevina Paul described witnessing Wednesday's attack.

He said "look over there, a few kilometers from here, it is Nigeria. We heard people dancing and singing like in a wedding feast." He said that was when shooting and explosions suddenly started.

It appears the militants may have either disguised themselves as a wedding party ahead of the attempted attack on Cameroon's military post or used civilian members of a wedding party as a distraction.

The military says in addition to killing some of the militants, it confiscated vehicles, a large quantity of weapons, and detained dozens of Nigerians on suspicion of aiding Boko Haram.

Colonel Chioka Pierre told VOA they have been conducting sweeps as part of an intensified crackdown on violent incidents believed to be connected to Boko Haram.

He said they have been searching more than half a dozen border villages to prevent incursions or to stop militants from using Cameroon as a hideout or launching pad for attacks. He said local residents were cooperating with the military to root out Boko Haram suspects in the area.

Residents said for some time there have been strange faces in their villages. And some feared Boko Haram may be recruiting young, unemployed people in Cameroon.

Bipong Dennis is a local resident. "We are seeing most of our graduates every year having no jobs. Tell me, if somebody comes and proposes a high sum of money to join this organization, most youths are desperate. They will be forced to do everything to get into these extremist activities," said Dennis.

Boko Haram

  • Based in the northeastern city of Maiduguri
  • Self-proclaimed leader is Abubakar Shekau
  • Began in 2002 as a nonviolent Islamist splinter group
  • Launched uprising in 2009
  • Has killed tens of thousands since 2010
  • Boko Haram translates to "Western education is sinful"
  • Wants Nigeria to adopt strict Islamic law

Military spokesman, Colonel Didier Badjeck, acknowledged Boko Haram has become a serious threat in northern Cameroon.

He said the security situation in north Cameroon is getting worse and Boko Haram was a very real threat in terms of recruiting young people, killing, looting and stealing.

Fear and suspicion are taking a sectarian turn, with some locals associating the threat with religion, given Boko Haram's Islamist agenda.

Pegui Manga is a teacher. "I feel threatened. When I see a Muslim around me I feel threatened. They are a threat and every other person that passes around us dressed as a Muslim or is identified as a Muslim is a potential threat," said Manga.

In the past week, Cameroon's military also detained 40 suspected Boko Haram militants in Maroua and sealed off a market where they suspect Boko Haram may be hiding arms.

The intensified crackdown comes as Boko Haram carries out daily deadly attacks and kidnappings in Nigeria. Nigeria's president has vowed to crush the Islamist insurgency and is getting assistance from other countries, including the United States.

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