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Cameroon Issues Strikes on Boko Haram Militants

FILE - A man rides a bicyle in the town of Amchide, northern Cameroon, on the border with Nigeria, June 17, 2014.

Cameroon said its military has launched rockets at suspected Boko Haram fighters who attacked its base on the border near Amchide and seized a huge portion of the town of Ashigashia.

Cameroon military spokesman Colonel Didier Badjeck said about 1,000 suspected Boko Haram fighters have seized parts of the villages of Ngouma, Sagme, Ardebe, Mbaljuel, Dambore, Soueram and Ashigashia and briefly occupied a military camp on Sunday.

Badjeck also said the militants have kidnapped several girls since Friday for forced marraiges to the group’s fighters.

He said the military was informed by local residents that Boko Haram had taken girls between the ages of 12 and 15 and performed forced marriages and obtained Hausa language documents announcing the “weddings.”

In the past year, Boko Haram has stepped up kidnappings of young women in Nigeria to sell them into sexual slavery or force them to marry its fighters. The tactic has drawn international outrage, but Nigerian efforts to prevent more kidnappings or rescue the young girls have not been successful.

Border towns targeted

Now the practice is spreading in Cameroon — where Boko Haram has been using border towns as staging grounds and a source of supplies.

The latest suspected Boko Haram attacks here in the past three weeks appeared to be aimed at pressing for the release of at least 100 of the group’s fighters who were arrested after they seized several Cameroonian villages.

Cameroon Minister of Communication Issa Tchiroma Bakari said the air force has been bombing insurgent positions and has forced them from the military base near Amchide.

"Cameroon will never accept that its territory be used as a support operating base for destabilization against other states. The crisis and tensions plaguing the region have however not failed to have repercussions in our country in which the government is relentlessly working to limit," Bakari said.

Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in Nigeria by Boko Haram’s five-year-old uprising to create an Islamic state in Nigeria.

Tens of thousands of Nigerians have also taken refuge in Cameroon but may be no safer here than at home.