YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Cameroon says it has killed at least 60 Boko Haram fighters and destroyed a stronghold for the militant group, as well as a huge stock of seized weapons, in fighting along its northern border.
Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon minister of communication and a government spokesperson, said, since January 26, thousands of Cameroon soldiers, supported by Nigerian troops, have launched raids on Boko Haram strongholds in the Mandara mountains, freeing more than 5,000 people, including women and children, from captivity.
Issa Tchiroma said at least 60 terrorists have been killed since the offensive began in late January.
More than 20 suspects have been arrested and are helping the Cameroon and Nigerian militaries in their investigations, he added. He also said troops have destroyed a refuge center for the insurgents in the Mandara highlands, a petroleum depot and an explosives factory, as well as the residence of a Boko Haram leader, which also served as a hideout for the terrorists, and a huge consignment of weapons, vehicles and motorcycles.
Issa Tchiroma said at least 5,000 people were freed, including the elderly. They were transported to a camp for displaced people in the Nigerian town of Banki and are receiving treatment from both Cameroon and Nigerian military health workers, he said.
No soldiers were killed in the offensive, Issa Tchiroma said.
In December last year, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced troops had chased Boko Haram militants out of their key remaining base in the Sambisa forest, another former stronghold that straddles Cameroon’s border with Nigeria.
Cameroon and Nigeria that same month reopened the border between the two countries for the first time in three years.
Cameroon has since called for vigilance and collaboration between its military and the population, stating that the insurgents had resorted to large-scale suicide bombings as their firepower had been greatly reduced.
Boko Haram's six-year insurgency has killed more than 25,000 people and displaced nearly 2.3 million, according to rights groups and the United Nations.