Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sub-Saharan Africa: Boko Haram Expands Its Reign of Terror Into Cameroon

According to, the Nigerian radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, as seemingly expanded its sphere of influence to neighboring Cameroon, which has seen several attacks in recent months, with foreigners also being abducted for ransom. 

This month, heavily armed gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram fighters attacked Bonderi village just five kilometers inside Cameroon and stole a military vehicle, four motorbikes and weapons from the gendarmerie base there. 

Another group of suspected Boko Haram gunmen also raided a gendarmerie border post in Zina town on July 8, three days prior to the Bonderi attack, and stole guns and ammunition. 

In June, two teenage sons of a Muslim cleric were kidnapped in Limani border town. It remains unclear whether the cleric's sons were ever rescued.

The attacks, the latest of which claimed the life of a police officer and wounded another on July 18, have occurred despite the deployment in June of 1,000 additional soldiers.

At least 2,053 civilians have been killed in some 95 Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria since January 2014, according to Human Rights Watch.

Cameroon’s Far North Region, home to some four million of the country’s 20 million people, lies adjacent to Boko Haram’s heartland of northeastern Nigeria. Around eight million people live in the northeastern Nigerian States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. 

Cameroonian military spokesman Didier Badjeck told IRIN. “It is difficult to lead a major operation against Boko Haram due to the fact that they are "invisible," and avoid a "paper trail."
COMMENT: “We cannot put security on every kilometer or area in the region. Boko Haram may have 100% advantage over the traditional military structure, because they've been clever in not being detected. They are like 'ghosts.'"

Despite this, he said, the security forces have arrested dozens of suspects, including some believed to be high-profile members of Boko Haram, although this has not been "unconfirmed."

Some of the arrests have been possible due to information provided by residents. But some locals are worried that such cooperation led to the June abduction of the two teenagers. The kidnapping is seen as punishment of the boys’ father. 

“The abduction… was a way to settle scores with him [the boys’ father] because he was seriously involved in the war against Boko Haram. He is suspected by Boko Haram of informing the military about their activities,” said Baba Amidu, a resident of Maroua, the capital of the Far North Region. 

Last year, Boko Haram claimed the kidnapping of a seven-member French family and a French priest whom they later freed. See the below link from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point:

The above link from the US Military Academy at West Point, NY is cited on the basis that the link supports the fact that Boko Haram demanded and received a ransom payment of $3.4 million from a seven-person French family that was kidnapped by Boko Haram and eventually released in April 2013 after payment of the incredible ransom demand.

A Canadian nun and two Italian priests who were seized earlier this year by suspected Boko Haram gunmen were also released after a few weeks in captivity.  

Boko Haram is also believed to be holding ten Chinese construction workers abducted in May 2014. 

While feeling reassured by the military presence, the mainly Muslim residents of the Far North Region are nonetheless caught between stricter security measures, such as an overnight curfew across the region and restricted movement due to fears of insurgent attacks. 

The overnight curfew, imposed since security was stepped up with the deployment of fresh troops, prohibits human and vehicle movement between 2000 hours and 0600 hours daily.

“It is the planting season and we have no choice but to risk our lives going into the fields,” said Fahdi Yahadi who lives in Kolofata area of the Far North Region. “We used to feel that since Boko Haram kidnapped only white people, we could not be targeted, but the recent kidnapping of girls in Nigeria and the teenage boys of the Muslim cleric has increased people’s fears.”