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Thousands Flee Boko Haram Threats

FILE - Civilians who fled their homes following an attacked by Islamist militants in Bama, take refuge at a School in Maiduguri, Nigeria.
FILE - Civilians who fled their homes following an attacked by Islamist militants in Bama, take refuge at a School in Maiduguri, Nigeria.

Thousands of panic stricken Cameroonians are fleeing the border with Nigeria for safer localities in the hinterlands following persistent attacks and killings by fighters of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram. The government says humanitarian and food crises loom as insurgents loot food and livestock from farms. In last Sunday's attack, in which dozens of people were kidnapped, the attackers also left with more than 200 cattle.

Thirty-two-year-old Lamsi Mamaina has just arrived at the palace of the lamido, the traditional ruler, of Rey Bouba in north Cameroon. She saud she fled from Tourou, on Cameroon's border with Nigeria, where she had been living for 15 years. She came to Rey Bouba to tell her husband's parents that she had not seen him since the attack by suspected Boko Haram fighters.

She added that she does not know where her family members are. She said some died in front of her and others cried in pain while she was able to escape. Wherever they are, she said, she can only give thanks to God and hope to meet them one day.

The lamido of Rey Bouba, Aboubakari Abdoulaye, said he has been receiving hundreds of refugees from the border with Nigeria.

He said all of his people have been educated on the need to work in solidarity with their suffering brothers and sisters. He said they have organized themselves and are receiving all the displaced people, who, he added, tell horrifying stories.

But not all the people are ready to receive the strangers. Lakinjo Amidou, a cattle rancher in Rey Bouba, said Cameroonians have to be sure that the people they are helping are not Boko Haram militants in disguise.

He said everyone who claims to be running from the war zone, even those who say they are relatives of people in Rey Bouba, should not be accepted without proper identification.

Abdoulaye said he has taken all necessary precautions to stop a possible incursion by members of the terror group

He said any organized society has to take some discreet measures and should not be distracted while carrying out sensitive duties, such as taking care of those who have been displaced. He added that his people are proactive and inform him of all suspected people because they know they have a role to play for peace to reign. He said they believe in God and trust their military, which has so far been fantastic in the fight against Boko Haram.

The head of Cameroon's army, Lieutenant General Rene Claude Meka, said some 10,000 Cameroonians have fled the border with Nigeria within the past three weeks.

Meka described a recent visit to Kolofata and some surrounding villages, where he saw horrible scenes. He said Cameroon has to do everything possible to defend its territory and protect the people from Boko Haram contamination. Meka added that everyone must mobilize and work very hard to protect Cameroon from the terrorists.

Cameroon government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakari has assured the people that the Cameroonian and Chadian troops that arrived in northern Cameroon last Saturday will be deployed to the border to protect them and their property.

"President Idriss Deby of Chad took a very outstanding, pivotal decision sending a very important military contingent to fight side by side with our army. They will proceed to send Cameroonian army and Chadian army and at the end of the day, I am convinced that they will make it," said Bakari.

Bakari told VOA that his country also had received assistance from Russia, but did not say what had been given.

"We are very much pleased to welcome this assistance by the Russian government. I am [convinced] that this will be very much helpful, this will be very much useful and our army will use it to enhance their own position, to multiply their own efficiency," he said.

The fleeing people are finding refuge with relatives and well wishers, while others have joined Nigerian refugees at their camp in Minawao, northern Cameroon.

Cameroon's military launched rockets on at least 1,000 suspected Boko Haram fighters who attacked a military base earlier this month in the border area of Amchide and seized a huge portion of Cameroon's town of Ashigashia and a number of villages. Last week, suspected Boko Haram fighters attacked Cameroonian villages on the border with Nigeria, slaughtered men and kidnapped 70 people, many of them women and children.