Cameroon says hundreds of civilians have fled Sagme, a northern village on the border with Nigeria, after a Boko Haram attack Saturday that left eight government troops dead and 13 wounded, according to a press release. The Cameroonian military deployed to the area and said fighters were also killed.
Cameroon’s military says about 90 heavily armed terrorists on six military tactical vehicles and several motorcycles entered the country from Nigeria Saturday, launching attacks on Sagme village.
Sagme is located in Cameroon's Far North region that shares a border with Nigeria’s Borno state, said to be an epicenter of jihadist group Boko Haram.
The press release by Army Captain Cyrille Serge Atonfack Guemo says the troops fought back but did not say how many combatants were killed. Guemo said the fighters escaped to Nigeria carrying bodies of their dead peers.
Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of Cameroon's Far North region, said six of the Cameroonian troops were killed on the spot while the other two died while being transported to a hospital in the northern town of Maroua. He said many troops suffered severe wounds during the intense shootout with Boko Haram terrorists but managed to escape. Bakari said he is extending the condolences of Cameroon’s President Paul Biya to the families of the soldiers killed.
Cameroon’s military said Biya immediately ordered the deployment of more troops to secure the country’s territory and civilians.
Bakari said several hundred civilians escaped from Sagme and neighboring villages to the bush for safety. He said the fleeing civilians should return to their villages as the military has been redeployed to protect lives and property.
He said people who think that Boko Haram has been eradicated from northern Cameroon are wrong. He said he is calling on civilians to help the military fight the terrorists through information sharing.
Bakari said he has asked traditional rulers, the clergy and community leaders to remobilize self-defense groups, especially along the border with Nigeria.
The Nigerian government has not issued a statement regarding the attack. But the Multinational Joint Task Force of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, comprising troops from Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Benin, has acknowledged the incident and said the fighters crossed over from Nigeria.
Security analyst and former military spokesman Didier Badjeck says the Cameroonian military alone cannot defeat Boko Haram terrorists.
He said Boko Haram has been infiltrating many localities on the northern border with Nigeria and that it is very difficult for the military to detect the terrorists if civilians do not collaborate by reporting strangers in all border towns and villages. Badjeck said churches and mosques should ask civilians to stop lodging visitors and giving strangers food, thinking that they are obeying religious teachings.
Badjeck said fighters may be disguising themselves as ranchers moving around in search of food for their cattle or as farmers visiting markets to sell crops.
In December 2020, Bakari said Boko Haram was establishing ties with top officials of his region. The revelation came after Cameroon's military arrested Blama Malla, a former lawmaker, for allegedly supplying cattle to the Nigerian terrorist group. Malla was detained in the northern town of Mora.
Boko Haram terrorists have been fighting for 11 years to create an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria. The fighting has spread to Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin, with regular killings, burnings of mosques, churches, markets and schools, and attacks on military installations.
The United Nations reports that Boko Haram violence has killed 30,000 people and displaced about two million in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.