Cameroon's military plans to redeploy troops to its borders with Nigeria and the Central African Republic after an increase in attacks from militants and rebels.
The military said hundreds of Boko Haram fighters are hiding in the bush after last week's invasion of the Mayo Moskota district on the northern border with Nigeria. The Cameroon government reported several hundred homes were set on fire, leaving thousands homeless.
Joseph Beti Assomo, Cameroon's defense minister, said President Paul Biya ordered him to convene an emergency security meeting in Yaounde this week to examine ways of stopping the attacks.
Assomo said a resurgence of Boko Haram attacks is causing untold suffering on civilians on the border with Nigeria after a long period of relative peace. He said militias created by civilians are struggling to combat thousands of Islamist extremists who have been crossing to Cameroon from Nigeria since January to commit atrocities on civilians and government troops.
Assomo, who spoke on Tuesday during the top security meeting also attended by police chiefs, said a week hardly goes by without large-scale attacks by the extremists.
Northern border villagers said Cameroon's military began withdrawing troops when Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Boko Haram terror group, was declared killed. Nigeria's government confirms Shekau died in May 2021.
Cameroon's military denied accusations that troops have abandoned civilians. The military said it has changed its strategy, but the protection of civilians and their property remains a priority.
Meanwhile, the military said the security meeting concluded that Central African Republic rebels fleeing clashes with the U.N. peacekeeping force known as MINUSCA are regularly crossing into eastern Cameroon for supplies. The rebels also abduct civilians for ransom.
Military officials said they have examined ways of fully stopping separatist attacks in Cameroon's western regions. Separatists have been fighting to carve out an independent English-speaking state from the French majority nation since 2017.
Deben Tchoffo, governor of the Northwest region, said the military is in control of all 34 districts in Cameroon's English-speaking Northwest region, despite separatists attacking civilians and burning public edifices at regular intervals. Many civilians have returned to their villages, and children are returning to schools in huge numbers which, he added, is an indication that current attacks by fighters are like the last kicks of a dying horse.
Cameroon's military said it will redeploy troops to western regions and the borders with Nigeria and Central African Republic. The government said troops will be deployed to new areas where separatists, terrorists and rebels are attacking, but did not say how many forces will be deployed or redeployed.
In March, 2,500 troops graduated from Cameroon's military training institutes. The government said it will train 3,000 fresh troops within the next 20 months to protect civilians and their property all over the central African state.