The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram is reported to have killed more than 70 people in a cross-border raid into Cameroon.
L'oeil du Sahel, a newspaper in Cameroon's Far North region, said Boko Haram militants attacked the town of Fotocol early Wednesday and conducted what the paper calls a massacre.
Abafani Mussa, who lives in Fotocol, told VOA's French to Africa Service that militants entered mosques and slit the throats of Muslims who had gathered for early morning prayers.
The militants later began going house to house before they were confronted by Cameroonian soldiers backed by Chadian forces, Mussa said. The combined forces eventually repelled the attack, killing an undetermined number of militants.
Chad said earlier that its soldiers repelled another Boko Haram attack in Fotocol on Tuesday and chased the fighters into the Nigerian town of Gambaru. A government statement said Chad lost nine soldiers and killed more than 200 militants.
The casualty figures have not been confirmed independently.
Cameroonian journalist Mal Moussa Ledou Blaise told VOA the Chadian army attacked after Boko Haram insurgents, disguised as civilians, shot at hundreds of people and killed three soldiers in Fotocol on the border with Nigeria.
Leading role for Chad
Chad has taken the lead role in a multinational effort to help Nigeria retake areas seized by Boko Haram for an envisioned Islamic state.
In a major offensive against Boko Haram, Nigerian and Chadian jets bombed the Islamic extremists from northeastern Nigerian towns and villages, the Associated Press reported witnesses and officials as saying Wednesday.
Mal Moussa also said the insurgents have been attacking mostly Chadian military posts since crossing into Cameroon early Wednesday.
Cameroonian soldiers supported the Chadians from a distance but did not get into the Nigerian territory, Mal Moussa said. He said there was no shooting between the Cameroonians and Boko Haram fighters, though the Chadians exchanged heavy fire with the fighters.
Colonel Didier Badjeck, spokesman for Cameroon’s military, said its troops and those from Chad have been deployed to Fotocol to fight Boko Haram. He said they’d be able to engage and hold off the extremists until support arrives from a regional force of 7,500 troops.
Strategy on regional force
The regional force was agreed upon at last week’s African Union summit. AU experts are expected to meet Thursday in Yaounde to draw up strategies on how it will operate. Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin have pledged to contribute troops to combat the militants, who are blamed for thousands of deaths since launching their insurgency in 2009.
Chad supported Cameroon after its president, Paul Biya, appealed for a coordinated international response to Boko Haram.
On Tuesday, Nigerian government spokesman Mike Omeri told VOA that a bilateral protocol allowed Chad to pursue Boko Haram fighters into Nigerian territory.
Nigeria said Tuesday that the insurgents had lost control of nearly a dozen towns and cities across the northeast, including Gambaru.
Chad said its forces destroyed about 10 vehicles equipped with heavy weapons and 100 motorcycles during Tuesday's fighting.
Moki Edwin Kindzeka contributed to this report from Yaounde, Cameroon.