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US Trains Cameroon Military on Landmines Detection


FILE - Cameroon's army soldiers deploy against the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram in Dabanga, northern Cameroon, June 17, 2014.

FILE - Cameroon's army soldiers deploy against the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram in Dabanga, northern Cameroon, June 17, 2014.

EDITOR'S NOTE: VOA has learned that Kwene Beltus (left), a senior Cameroonian military official interviewed for this story, was killed by landmine blast the day after he spoke to VOA for this story.

YAOUNDE — The United States is training the Cameroon military in techniques of detecting and counteracting landmines and explosive devices. The training comes due to the increasing use of landmines and suicide bombings by Boko Haram militants.

Kwene Beltus, one of Cameroon's senior military officials fighting the Boko Haram insurgency, said the terrorist group's ability to launch massive attacks has been drastically reduced by raids organized by Cameroonian and Nigerian soldiers on Boko Haram strongholds in the border regions. He said the terrorist group has now resorted more to suicide bombings and the use of landmines.

"They put explosives on the road. They know that when the car will pass on those explosives everything will be blown off. It is their new strategy that they use now. They know that those friends, those [Nigerian] army friends that will come to help us [that come to fight with us] will pass on those explosives and will be destroyed," said Beltus.

Landmines planted by insurgents

Last month, Cameroon closed some of its borders with Nigeria frequently used by the insurgents. Government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma Bakary said several dozen people had died from suicide bombings and the country had incurred human and material loses from landmines planted by the insurgents.

General Jacob Kodji, commander of Cameroon troops fighting Boko Haram, said faced with this new form of Boko Haram strategy, Cameroon's Defense Ministry asked for the help of the United States in teaching troops how to deal with landmines and suicide bombings.

"We are so grateful for this opportunity and since our hierarchy [defense ministry] has appreciated this course we are following it with very very big interest. This is something additional to what we have been using [doing] and having as expertise or capability. We are very sure that technically or psychologically we will have improvement," he said.

Experts from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) trained the soldiers on detecting and counteracting explosive devices.

New security challenge

Christian Ehrhardt, senior official in charge of security at the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, said the U.S. was willing to help Cameroon meet this new security challenge.

"Boko Haram is a threat. It is threatening the entire subregion's stability and the United States is committed to helping Cameroon and its partners in the region with ensuring the stability," he said.

FILE - Cameroon soldiers stand guard at a lookout post as they take part in operations against the Islamic extremists group Boko Haram.

FILE - Cameroon soldiers stand guard at a lookout post as they take part in operations against the Islamic extremists group Boko Haram.

Besides the training, 300 American Marines have been deployed to the central African nation and the U.S. has provided war equipment to Cameroon.

Cameroon is one of the countries taking part in a joint regional task force to fight Boko Haram alongside Chad, Niger, Benin and Nigeria.

Boko Haram has killed thousands in Africa, according to the United Nations, and the group has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, attacked mosques, churches, palaces, homes, markets and schools, and kidnapped scores of girls and young women.

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