YAOUNDE — Cameroon says the Nigerian Islamic sect Boko Haram is suspected in an attack on one of its markets near Kousseri - with at least one soldier killed. A similar attack occurred March 9 in the same area. The latest incident also provoked panic in a convoy of guarded Chadian refugees who had fled sectarian violence in the Central African Republic.
Residents say the attackers entered Cameroon through the porous borders and shot at soldiers Thursday in a market near Kousseri, a town close to Cameroon's borders with Nigeria and Chad.
“Two Boko Haram people came to the market on a motorcycle in broad day light,” eyewitness Mahamat Djibril, a businessman, told VOA. He said he thinks they shot and killed several soldiers.
The governor of the Far North Region, Awah Fonka Augustin, also said he thought Boko Haram was involved.
"There was a confrontation between Boko Haram and soldiers that were present,” he said. The governor says the town has returned to normal and he called on the population to be calm, saying the military is there to protect their safety.
Minister of Communications Issa Tchiroma Bakari said the attack was the work of foreign insurgents from a bordering country that is experiencing what he called a “religious crisis." But he did not specifically name Boko Haram.
He called on nearby countries to respect Cameroon’s peaceful position.
He said Cameroon is a country where priests and imams meet for ecumenical church services and this is an asset.
Boko Haram says it is fighting to create a strict Islamic state in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria. The shadowy group is blamed for thousands of deaths since 2009.
Cameroon is caught in between Nigeria’s violence-plagued north and the sectarian conflict engulfing its eastern neighbor, the Central African Republic.
The shooting incident near Kousseri created panic among some 300 Chadians who fled the C.A.R. and were passing through Cameroon on their way back home.
Said Abdoul was in the convoy. He tells VOA the Chadians they are afraid to continue their journey from the town of Ngaoundere.
“It is dangerous to leave Ngaoundere” he said, “because we hear that Boko Haram groups are around and can kill us.”
Last year Boko Haram kidnapped a French family and a priest in northern Cameroon.
Concerns have recently surfaced that Boko Haram may be using neighboring nations as safe havens from which to launch attacks.
Earlier this month, Cameroon strongly denied it was allowing its territory to be used as a training ground for terrorist groups, including Boko Haram.