Military officials reported on Monday that two female suicide bombers suspected of belonging to the Boko Haram militant group blew themselves up on Monday near a mosque in Cameroon’s Far North province.
While officials have disclosed that it was not immediately clear if the explosions caused other fatalities, sources are reporting that Boko Haram militants are likely to be behind the latest attack.
Meanwhile in Senegal, officials disclosed on Monday that they have arrested five people suspected of having links to Boko Haram – a development that could mark a significant expansion of the militant group’s operations. According to a senior justice ministry official, the five were arrested last month in the suburbs of Senegal’s capital city Dakar and in the central town of Kaolak, more than 2,500 km (1,500 miles) from the militant’s base in northeastern Nigeria. The official has disclosed that “we believe those arrested have ties with Boko Haram,” adding that a judge charged them on Friday with alleged relations with a terrorism organization, financing of terrorism and money laundering.
According to security and regional sources, Boko Haram militants on Friday seized control of a town in the far north of Cameroon, which lies on the border with Nigeria.
A security source confirmed Friday that the militants “…now control Kerawa.” The information was also confirmed by another source close to the regional authorities, who indicated that an unspecified number of civilians had been killed in the assault. Local officials reported Friday that Cameroonian soldiers fought Boko Haram militants who raided a village in the Far North region, just a day after a similar attack in the area. According to one local official, “since yesterday, Boko Haram members raided the Kerawa village…They slit the throats of between three and seven people yesterday and killed others.”
Kerawa, which has 50,000 inhabitants, is located in the Kolofata district, which has been regularly targeted by Boko Haram militants. There is a military camp inside the town, which was last hit by a double suicide bombing on 3 September, which claimed at least thirty lives.
As President Muhammadu Buhari marked his first week in office, the death toll from two blasts in northeastern Nigeria climbed to 35 on Friday, raising the total number killed in suspected Boko Haram attacks to 82.
This week’s violence comes as President Buhari embarked on his first foreign trip since taking office, visiting neighbouring Chad and Niger, which along with Cameroon, are Nigeria’s key allies in the battle against Boko Haram’s on going uprising. During his trip, Buhari urged closer regional security cooperation, while thanking troops from Nigeria’s neighbours for their efforts to date. The newly elected Nigerian president has vowed to crush the militant group, however last weeks spate of bombings has highlighted the severity of the challenge.
Two blasts rocked northeastern Nigeria on Thursday, killing at least six people, just hours before President Muhammadu Buhari urged closer regional cooperation to defeat Boko Haram. According to officials, the first explosion occurred in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, which has been hit by a spate of bombings in recent days. The incident occurred when a truck carrying firewood rammed into a checkpoint outside a military barracks. Police and locals have reported that at least four soldiers were killed in this explosion, which one resident called a “suicide attack.” The second blast occurred at a busy market in Yola, the capital of neighbouring Adamawa state. At least two people were killed in the second incident and some 30 others were injured. While there was no claim of responsibility, both incidents will likely be blamed on Boko Haram. Just hours before these latest attacks, President Buhari arrived in Chad’s capital N’Djamena, for talks with his counterpart Idriss Deby on tackling Boko Haram. According to a statement from the office of the Chadian President, Deby has “reaffirmed Chad’s involvement and availability” to work with Nigeria.
At least eleven people were killed Wednesday in an explosion in Maiduguri. According to Danlami Ajaokuta, a civilian vigilante assisting that military against Boko Haram in the Baga Road area, “we have so far recovered six dead bodies. We are still working at the scene, so the casualties may rise.” Ajaokuta indicated that the blast, which occurred at 5:30 PM (1630 GMT), happened at a garage opposite a military unit and it appeared to have been caused by explosives that were left nearby. Since last Friday, Maiduguri, which has been a regular target for Boko Haram Islamists, has been hit four times.
On Tuesday, suspected Boko Haram militants launched a renewed attack on Maiduguri, just days after the military repelled an assault on the key city. At least thirteen people were killed Tuesday in a suicide attack at a busy cattle market in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. According to Red Cross officials and locals, the blast in the Borno state capital occurred at around 1:00PM (1200 GMT) as traders were wrapping up business for the day. The northeast spokesman of the Nigerian Red Cross, Umar Sadiq, indicated that there were 13 dead and 24 injured who were taken to two city hospitals for treatment. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack, it bore the hallmarks of the group, with one official indicated that the victims were “carefully targeted,” adding “the bomber chose the most crowded part of the market and set off his bombs.” The attack came after Boko Haram militants again targeted Maiduguri with rocket-propelled grenades in the early hours of Tuesday after hitting the city in a similar attack on Saturday. Residents reported that the militants arrived in the Moronti area of the city by river during the early hours of Tuesday however they were unable to advance further because of wide ditches and embankments that were dug by soldiers around the city limits. According to locals, the militants then began shelling Ajillari Cross, which is located about three kilometres (2 miles) away. One local stated, “we were bombarded by RPG’s (rocket-propelled grenades) by Boko Haram from Moronti…We all left our homes for fear of being hit inside. It was dark so we could see the trajectory of the RPG’s, which were red with heat… Soon afterwards, we saw troops in trucks moving towards Moronti and then a fighter jet also deployed not long afterwards.”
On Monday, a spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the newly elected president will this week make his first foreign trip since taking office.
Newly elected President Buhari is due to travel to neighboring Niger on Wednesday and to Chad on Thursday. Niger shares a border with Borno and Yobe states while Chad borders Borno state in Nigeria’s extreme northeast. According to Shehu Garba, the two-day trip will focus on “maters of security,” with the cooperation of Nigeria’s neighbors seen as being critical to ending the militant uprising, which since 2009 has claimed more than 15,000 lives.
President Buhari was sworn in last Friday and during his inaugural speech, he vowed to crush the insurgent group, which he described as “mindless” and “godless.” Despite this vow, Boko Haram carried out an attack some twelve hours after the new president took the oath of office, targeting homes in the key northeastern city of Maiduguri. Overnight on Saturday, the militants stormed the city, launching rocket-propelled grenades. Later, a suicide attack at a mosque in the city, which is the Borno state capital, killed at least twenty-six people and injured dozens others. On Sunday, the militants raided two towns in Borno’s neighboring state of Yobe, where they torched public buildings and looted food and fuel stores.
While former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had previously complained that Nigeria’s neighbors were not doing enough in order to contain Boko Haram, as in some instances, the militants were able to flee military pursuit by crossing porous borders, a four-nation offensive launched in February, and which includes troops from Cameroon, has won significant victories, however there are growing fears that Boko Haram may be regrouping, particularly in the remote border areas which are difficult to patrol. In turn, both Chad and Niger have complained of a lack of cooperation from Nigeria, which has strained relations with all its neighbors. Chadian troops have also had to retake some towns from Boko Haram several times as Nigerian troops haven’t arrived in order to secure them.
On Tuesday, Niger declared a 15-day state of emergency in the border region of Diffa after several attacks carried out by Nigerian-based militant group Boko Haram.
The declaration of a state of emergency effectively provides troops operating in the region new powers to search homes without a warrant and to impose a curfew. In the wake of Boko Haram attacks on the border town of Diffa over the weekend, officials have also imposed an overnight curfew and have banned the use of motorcycles, a common mode of transport, in order to prevent infiltration by Boko Haram militants. The curfew will force residents to stay indoors between 20:00 and 06:00 local time (19:00 and 05:00 GMT). On the grounds sources have reported that thousands of residents are fleeing the town of Diffa over fears that the militants will launch further attacks. Some have travelled 500 km (310 miles) to Zinder city, with one eyewitness reporting that about 200 refugees arrived in Zinder on Tuesday in a single convoy. The nearby border town of Bosso was attacked on Friday.
In recent weeks, Boko Haram has intensified its campaign against neighbouring states, carrying out attacks and kidnappings in Cameroon. On Monday, suspected Boko Haram militants hijacked a bus in northern Cameroon, abducting at least 20 people. On the ground sources reported that the militants reportedly seized a bus carrying market-goers and drove it towards the border with Nigeria. The bus was seized near the border area of Koza and driven towards the Nigerian border, 18 kilometres (11 miles) away.
During the early morning hours Wednesday, Boko Haram militants attacked Chadian troops stationed in a Nigerian border town. According to a Chadian military source, “the Boko Haram elements wanted to surprise us by attacking at about 4 am (0300 GMT). We were aware about it from the day before and were prepared.” The attack occurred in the town of Gamboru, which is located on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, where Chadian troops, who are deployed to help in the complex regional battle against Boko Haram, have taken up positions. According to the source, Boko Haram militants “…arrived with 14 vehicles and two armoured vehicles. We repulsed them and they retreated,” adding “a helicopter was brought in to join the pursuit and destroy them.”
Last week, Nigeria and its neighbours, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, agreed to launch a 8,750 regional force, composed of troops, police and civilians, for a wider African Union-backed force against Boko Haram. On Monday, Niger’s parliament voted to deploy troops to Nigeria to join the fight against Boko Haram. MP’s have authorized the deployment of 750 soldiers with a regional force that is battling the militant group. On going Boko Haram attacks and the region’s military operations to gain back occupied territory have forced Nigeria to postpone its presidential and parliamentary elections from 14 February to 28 march.