President Barack Obama formally notified Congress Oct. 14 that 90 US troops have been mobilized to Cameroon—the first contingent of a 300-strong force to assist in the struggle against Boko Haram. The force will conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, but will not participate in ground combat operations (except in self-defense). Unarmed surveillance drones will also be deployed. The Pentagon said the move came at the invitation of Cameroon's government, which has been headed by strongman Paul Biya since 1982. Cameroon is part in a joint regional task force to fight Boko Haram along with Chad, Niger and Benin. (Foreign Policy, VOA, BBC News, AP, Oct. 14)
At least five suicide bombers on Oct. 10 targeted a village in Chad that is home to thousands of Nigerians who have fled Boko Haram violence, killing at least 36 people and wounding about 50 others in co-ordinated attacks. Authorities blamed Boko Haram for staging the attacks in the village of Baga Sola, near the Nigerian border. Nearly half of the dead resulted when two female suicide bombers hit the village market when it was at its busiest. The following day, two female suicide bombers carried out the attacks in the Cameroon village of Kangaleri, again targeting a market district and killing nine. Both western Chad and northern Cameroon hosts thousands of Nigerian refugees. Another 1.5 million are internally displaced within Nigeria. (AFP, CBC, Sahara Reporters, Anadolu Agency)
A report (PDF) released Sept. 16 by Amnesty International (AI) details the atrocities committed by Boko Haram in northern Cameroon, resulting in the killing of some 400 civilians since January 2014. The report details the extensive human rights violation, including shootings and suicide bombings, which have largely targeted civilians. Boko Haram has reportedly recruited child soldiers and destroyed private and religious property. The report states that it appears that the acts of terror are a part of a "systematic...attack against the civilian population across north east Nigeria and the Far North of Cameroon." The report also discusses the response by security forces, which AI labeled as "heavy-handed," as security forces have arrested and detained more than 1,000 civilians. The poor conditions of the detention facilities have led to overcrowding and, in some cases, death.
Presumed Boko Haram militants killed more than 20 people in a double suicide attack in northern Cameroon on July 22—executed by two teenage girls, both under the age of 15. The attacks targeted a market and an adjoining neighborhood in Maroua, capital of the Far Northern Region. (See map) That same day, 42 lost their lives in a series of blasts at two bus stations in Gombe, northeast Nigeria. A new five-nation force—from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin—is due for deployment to fight Boko Haram by month's end. Boko Harams has been calling itself Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) since affiliating with the ISIS franchise earlier this year. (The Guardian, July 23; Long War Journal, July 22)
After suicide bombings July 11 in Fotokol by two women wearing burqas, Northern Cameroon this week banned women from wearing burqas and face-covering veils [hijab]. The suicide bombers smuggled the bombs into public areas by hiding them under their veils. The attack, initiated by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, killed at least 14 people. As part of the ban, it was also decided by government officials that Muslims are not permitted to meet in large groups without permission. The governor of Cameroon's Far North Region, Midjiyawa Bakari, plans to increase security and further investigate the unexpected bombings. Some have protested the new ban, arguing that wearing a burqa is not a choice and that it is necessary to wear for religious reasons. However, government officials plan to keep the ban in effect as long as necessary to prevent further attacks.
Amnesty International urged Cameroon on June 19 to end the six-month detention of 84 children being held after raids on Koranic schools. AI reports that some of the children were as young as five years old. The children remained detained in a children's center in Maroua even after being charged with no crimes. The government charged the teachers of the Koranic schools of running terrorist training camps for the Nigeria-based group Boko Haram. The raids were part of the Cameroon government's on-going battle against the terrorist group. Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International deputy director for West and Central Africa, stated: "Detaining young children will do nothing to protect Cameroonians living under the threat of Boko Haram." AI has urged Cameroon to immediately release any children under the age of 15 to their parents and ensure a fair trial for any other's associated with the raid.
An advance unit of hundreds of Chadian troops, backed up by a column of tanks, arrived at Cameroon's northern border town of Kousseri Jan. 17, greeted with cheers by local residents terrorized by Boko Haram. The intervention force, approved by Chad's parliament, is to number in the thousands. Days earlier, most of the residents of nearby Kolofata were forced to flee after an attack by Boko Haram. Cameroon troops killed 143 insurgents in a gun battle that lasted more than four hours, the army said. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau this month threatened Cameroon's President Paul Biya in an online video. Biya sent some 1,000 troops to the border to fight Boko Haram after the wife of deputy premier Amadou Ali was captured in July by suspected militants. A French-led initiative calls for Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad to contribute 700 troops each to a multinational force against Boko Haram. (Press TV, Jan. 18; AFP, Jan. 17; BBC News, Bloomberg, Jan. 16)
Up to 2,000 are feared dead in an ongoing massacre after Boko Haram seized Baga, a town on Nigeria's border with Chad in Borno state. Amnesty International cited witness claims that the town was "razed to the ground." Hundreds of bodies remain strewn in the bush, where fighting has continued since the town's military base was overrun by the militants on Jan. 3. Said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International: "The attack on Baga and surrounding towns, looks as if it could be Boko Haram’s deadliest act in a catalogue of increasingly heinous attacks carried out by the group. [T]his marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught against the civilian population." Meanwhile in Potiskum, Yobe state, at least six people are dead after two suspected child suicide bombers blew themselves up in a market Jan. 11.