YAOUNDE— The government of Cameroon is denying that former Seleka rebels from the Central African Republic have attacked its border town of Garoua Boulai. Officials are trying to calm panic-stricken residents who say they witnessed the fighters enter their town and set off explosives.
Seleka rebels toppled the president in the Central African Republic last March. Then, the rebel movement disintegrated, and the mostly Muslim fighters began a spree of attacks and looting across the CAR that sparked the rise of Christian defense groups and a cycle of violence that is still continuing.
In eastern Cameroon, residents of Garoua Boulai say they were attacked over the weekend by ex-Seleka fighters who entered the border town from CAR territory.
Ivada Carine said in an interview with VOA there was a confrontation.
She said she saw Seleka enter her town and were met by Cameroonian soldiers. She says she does not know where they went but she supports her military.
Resident Ndiki Philomene told VOA the gunmen shot indiscriminately, forcing many in her town to flee.
She said there was gunfire everywhere and the town came to a standstill until the Cameroon soldiers arrived. She says things are just starting to return to normal.
Cameroon's government, however, is downplaying the incident, saying ex-Seleka fighters did not attack the town.
The governor of Cameroon’s East Region, Samuel Dieudonne Ivaha Diboua, told VOA that Garoua Boulai witnessed a spillover from the fighting in the CAR.
He said the battle was not on Cameroonian soil but in the Central African zone called Cantoneer. He says Cameroon’s forces were alert along the border. But he says they did intercept many CAR residents running away from the fighting and they have been transferred to the U.N. refugee agency inside Cameroon.
People in eastern Cameroon have been subjected to various attacks blamed on Seleka for the past year. The country officially closed its border with the CAR in August.
Cameroonians hope with the selection of a new interim president in the CAR, violence and cross-border attacks will come to an end.