LAGOS — Cameroon has said it is recruiting 20,000 more defence and security forces to fight Boko Haram following reports that the terrorist group, based in Nigeria, is recruiting young Cameroonians to fight for them.
This is just as nine persons were killed, including two suicide bombers, as multiple bomb explosions rocked Yobe and Gombe states on the eve and new year day, while 10 others were injured.
Senator Haman Paul, who hails from northern Cameroon, told VOA about Boko Haram’s recruitment of young Cameroonians to fight for the creation of an Islamist caliphate in northern Nigeria.
“That was something that we witnessed in Maroua (in northern Cameroon). People told us that they found people in town that were not actually people they were used to. When we found that one part of the country is in a very delicate situation, it is better to manage prevention instead of consequences,” said Paul.
Another lawmaker from northern Cameroon, Sali Dairou, said that just last week Boko Haram seized cattle from Cameroonian ranchers who lived along the border with Nigeria’s Borno and Adamawa states, adding that the ranchers have lost thousands of cattle.
Dairou said the militants also killed some of the cattle ranchers, while thousands of their cows went into the wild. He said this was a huge loss, adding that no rancher has the courage to go to the boundary with Nigeria to bring back his remaining cattle.
Cameroon’s Minister of Territorial Administration, Rene Emmanuel Sadi, said the threat posed by Boko Haram had led many people from the border areas to flee.
He said northern Cameroon was the hardest hit as many schools have remained closed and people are abandoning their farms and cattle.
Sadi said Boko Haram has paralyzed trade between Cameroon and Nigeria that has supplied 80 per cent of foodstuff and basic necessities to northern Cameroon since the two countries gained independence more than five decades ago.
Commercial activities halted
He said in addition to the woes of the economy of northern Cameroon was the fact that Nigerian fuel, which is widely used, was no longer available while business transactions and commercial activities had been completely halted by Boko Haram.
Cameroon’s Defence Minister, Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o, said besides the economic hardship, atrocities committed by the militant group have led to a massive movement of more than 30,000 villagers to areas of the country away from the border.
He said fear gripped the people when Boko Haram started arresting and publicly killing religious leaders and chiefs who collaborate with the government of Cameroon in some villages that neighbour Nigeria’s Borno state.
Effect of unrest
Another effect of the unrest has been that commercial banks are unable to recover loans granted to farmers and cattle ranchers and now have decided not to give loans to people along Cameroon’s border with Nigeria.
Cameroon’s Police chief, Martin Mbarga Nguelle, said that the country had decided to recruit some 20,000 defence and security forces to fight and restore security in the border areas.
He said Cameroonian President Paul Biya had instructed him to recruit 4,700 policemen this year and 5,000 next year. The military is also recruiting at least 6,000 Cameroonian youths this year.
Cameroon joined Nigeria, Benin, Chad and Niger in sharing intelligence and border surveillance.
Cameroon is working with the four African nations plus the United States, France, China and Germany in a new regional African effort against the extreme Islamists.
9 killed in Yobe, Gombe explosions
Meanwhile, nine persons were killed, including two suicide bombers, as multiple bomb explosions rocked Yobe and Gombe states on the eve and new year day, while 10 others were injured.
On Wednesday, witnesses said that seven people were killed when a bus exploded in a village close to Potiskum, the commercial capital of northern Yobe.
“The bus went up in flames from multiple blasts that killed all seven men inside,” said Hambali Baidu, a resident of Maiduwa village, which lies some 60 kilometers (40 miles) from the city.
No official confirmation of the death toll has been given.
“We heard series of explosions from the bus, which went flying into the air in flames,” said Usman Haruna, another resident.
“They were no doubt Boko Haram militants on their way to carry out attacks.”
Suicide bomber shot dead
Later same day, a female suicide bomber was killed as she tried to enter a military barracks.
Soldiers opened fire on the woman when she refused to be searched as she approached the barracks in Bolari, in Gombe State, detonating the explosives belt she was wearing, according to eyewitness accounts.
The woman, who was wearing a hijab, was killed instantly, witnesses said.
“The woman refused to stop and continued to advance towards the military guards at the gates despite repeated orders for her to stop at a distance,” said Shuaibu Nasir, who lives near the gates of the barracks.
“The soldiers opened fire on the woman, who quickened her pace towards them, and as they fired shots at her she exploded with a loud sound that shook our buildings,” Nasir said.
Wednesday’s blast prompted policemen to fire warning shots in the air, causing panic among residents, Nasir said.
Another resident, Ahmed Baballe, said the would-be bomber was “blown to pieces” by the impact of the explosion.
“The soldiers did not take chances with the woman and opened fire when she showed no sign of stopping to be searched,” Baballe said.
Also yesterday, several people were injured at the entrance of Tudun Wada ECWA Church, Gombe, when a suicide bomber set off his explosive.
The spokesman of the state Police Command, DSP Fwaje Atajiri, told newsmen in Gombe that a suicide bomber rode on a motorcycle and tried to enter the church a few minutes after 8a.m.
He said: “He came with a motorcycle and tried to enter the place but as a result of the security measures put in place, he was blocked and the bomb exploded, killing him instantly,” Atajiri said.
In his account, the head of the Nigerian Red Cross in Gombe, Abubakar Yakubu said “there was an explosion outside the ECWA church this morning. A suicide bomber who was restrained from getting into the church blew himself up. Luckily no one was killed but some people were mildly injured.”
An eye witness, Malam Aminu Muhammad, whose house is close to the blast scene, said he was indoors when he heard a loud sound.
“When I heard the sound, I immediately came out, and what I saw was horrible. I saw human parts scattered everywhere with blood and pieces of motorcycle which the suicide bomber rode on,” Muhammad said.
Another eyewitness, Dahiru Badamasi who lives in the neighbourhood said the suicide bomber arrived during the service at the Evangelical Church of West Africa in Gombe and refused to park his motorcycle outside a security barrier set up by volunteers.
“He insisted on riding through the barrier. It was while he was arguing with the volunteers that his suicide belt exploded.”
Another witness, Jummai Maifada said he heard an explosion and rushed outside.
“I saw a man leading three children with their new dresses stained with blood,” he said
Malam Abdullahi Isah, the Secretary, Gombe Specialist Hospital, said 10 injured persons were brought to the hospital.
According to him, the victims sustained various injuries and were undergoing a treatment, adding that one of them was taken to the theatre.
Gombe, has until recently been spared the violence that has shaken the neighbouring states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa, where Boko Haram has taken around 20 towns.
On Wednesday a female suicide bomber was killed as she tried to enter a military barracks in Gombe.
Seven others died in a bus explosion Wednesday in a village close to Potiskum, in Yobe state.
President Goodluck Jonathan, had, Thursday, promised to re-equip and re-position the armed forces “to enhance their capacity to win the ongoing war against terror and insurgency.”
He said:“We will bring justice to the savage terrorists known as Boko Haram. They will be defeated. We will not forget. We will not look the other way.”