GAROUA, CAMEROON - Suspected Boko Haram fighters have kidnapped an influential traditional ruler and Muslim spiritual leader in northern Cameroon along with his family. The kidnappers also seized the wife of a government minister during their raid in the border town of Kolofata, near Nigeria's Borno State.
Residents of Kolofata say heavily armed men stormed their locality late Saturday and started shooting indiscriminately in the air, ransacking houses and looting. They seized the town's mayor, Seini Boukar Lamine, who is also a traditional ruler and Muslim spiritual leader.
Adviser to the cleric, Alidou Dandama, told VOA in a telephone interview what happened.
He says the assailants kidnapped the Lamido or traditional and Muslim spiritual leader of Kolofata and all of his family and they also took the wife of Ahmadou Ali, a deputy prime minister who handles relations between the national assembly and assemblies of other countries.
According to Dandama, the armed men headed toward Nigeria's Borno state with Ali's wife. He adds the assailants surrounded the minister's house for nearly an hour.
Cameroon's military has not commented directly on the kidnappings, but communication officer Frederick Massogui said on state radio there has been fierce fighting between Cameroonian soldiers and heavily armed men from Nigeria.
He says northern Cameroon has again been attacked by hundreds of heavily armed Boko Haram members and the country's military is bravely defending its territory and its citizens.
Ignatius Ndi, a resident of Maroua, regional capital of Cameroon's Far North Region, told VOA in a telephone interview soldiers fighting in the border area have been receiving reinforcements from Maroua.
"The atmosphere here is that of fear and uncertainty because of repeated attacks," he said. "The atmosphere is really tense and there are military helicopters circulating in the air, a thing people here are not used to. The population has embarked on serious prayers in mosques and churches, praying that nothing should happen to them."
Ndi adds that lots of people have been fleeing the border with Nigeria to other parts of Cameroon.
"People who are living in the frontiers have started migrating to Maroua and it can actually degenerate into an explosion and to start handling those who are moving from the peripheries to the town will be a difficult situation for the government," he said.
This is the second reported kidnapping of Cameroonians by the Nigerian Islamist group. Earlier this month, suspected Boko Haram militants kidnapped two teenaged children of one of Cameroon's most influential Muslim spiritual leaders, Bieshair Mohaman. The abduction occurred in the town of Limani, also on the border with Nigeria's Borno state, which is the home base of the Islamist group.