More than 300 heavily armed men suspected to be members of the Nigerian radical group Boko Haram have attacked the locality of Gorsi Tourou in North Cameroon, burning churches and looting property.
- 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
These villagers, who have fled Gorsi Tourou village in far northern Cameroon, are praying for God's protection from the radical Islamist group Boko Haram.
They escaped their village after a group of more than 300 heavily armed men began looting, burning houses and destroying property.
Village chief Moussa Sambo, who was invited by Cameroonian authorities to the capital Yaounde, told VOA the invaders have been on the hills of Gorsi Tourou for five days.
He said it all started on Friday at about 5:00 p.m. when there was a heavy downpour. He said heavy gunfire was heard and there was total panic, adding the invaders looted food, money and goods.
Sambo said some of the attackers had taken position on the hills surrounding their village and could monitor the movements of Cameroon's military, which arrived about two hours later and engaged the militants in battle.
Cameroon's minister of communication and government spokesperson, Issa Tchiroma, tod VOA that there were many casualties, including assailants, a Cameroonian soldier and a villager. He also said soldiers drove back the attackers.
"Our defense forces responded and one of their vehicles and a war weapon of Kalashnikov type was seized. Defeated, the attackers went on the run and disappeared within the Nigerian territory," he said.
But Moussa disputed the claim that the militants fled back to Nigeria. He said Cameroon soldiers were not able to get to the top of the hills where the assailants were hiding.
When VOA asked Issa Tchiroma if he was certain that the assailants had left, he said he was calling on citizens to report any suspicious activities in their vicinity.
"I call on you fellow citizens, be they elite, traditional rulers, peasant, farmers, drivers to watch out and accompany our authorities and forces and defense forces in bringing the information they need in terms of intelligence and denunciation and help them to successfully conduct their mission assigned them," he said.
Seven bodies believed to be killed Boko Haram members were buried in the village by Cameroonian soldiers, while other corpses were taken away by the militants to the bushes.
It is the first attack by suspected Boko Haram fighters on the village, situated some 400 kilometers from where the violent Islamist group has previously operated within Cameroon.
Some believe the latest violence indicates the group is looking for other entry points into Cameroon, after the government declared war on Boko Haram and deployed troops to areas where the militants attacked in the past.