YAOUNDE, CAMEROON —
Cameroon says it has pushed backed a group of suspected anti-Balaka rebels from the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) who attacked its territory Tuesday, apparently in an attempt to free one of their leaders.
Cameroon Defense Minister Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo'o said confrontations between the Cameroon military and suspected anti-Balaka rebels have been common during the past month. He said during Tuesday's attack in eastern Cameroon, his soldiers succeeded in forcing the rebels to retreat. He added that Cameroon’s military is determined to defend Cameroon's territorial integrity and crush the rebels.
The rebels are pressing for the release of one of their leaders, Abdoulaye Meskine, and 10 of their fellow anti-Balaka soldiers, who were arrested last year in the Cameroonian area of Garoua Boulaye, near the border with C.A.R.
Last September, the suspected anti-Balaka fighters disguised themselves as refugees fleeing the crisis in C.A.R. and kidnapped a dozen Cameroonians.
Cameroon's military spokesman, Colonel Didier Badjeck, said since security conditions in C.A.R. deteriorated in December 2013, when clashes erupted between the Séléka and anti-Balaka groups, there has been instability in parts of eastern Cameroon and a pattern of anti-Balaka rebel incursions.
He said instability in the Central African Republic has been causing lots of material and human loses in Cameroon but that the military is determined to defend Cameroon and protect its people.
Cameroon shares a 800-kilometer long boundary with the landlocked C.A.R. There are currently some 300,000 C.A.R. refugees in Cameroon.
For the past two years, sectarian Christian and Muslim militias in C.A.R. have been waging war against each other's communities with horrific violence.
More than 2,600 Central Africans have died, and nearly 1 million of the country's 4.5 million residents have been displaced. An estimated 300,000 of them are in Cameroon.