Hostages Freed After Being Kidnapped by Boko Haram in CameroonJanuary 19, 2015 in Cameroon, Nigeria
Reports surfaced Monday that at least twenty of up to eight people, who were taken hostage by Boko Haram militants in Cameroon over the past weekend, have been freed.
Cameroon’s defence ministry disclosed Monday that the hostages were freed “as defence forces pursued the attackers who were heading back to Nigeria.” Many of those kidnapped in the cross-border raid are said to be children. It is one of the largest abductions by Boko Haram to take place outside Nigeria and it has raised fears that the militant group is expanding its operations into neighbouring countries. It is also the first major attack on Cameroon since Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, threatened President Paul Biya in a video posted online earlier this month.
The abductions took place in the villages of Maki and Mada, near the city of Mokolo, in Cameroon’s Far North region. According to Cameroonian police and local officials, the militants arrived during the early morning hours on Sunday, with on the ground sources reporting that many of those abducted were women and children. Prior to leaving the area, the attackers burned dozens of homes. It remains unclear exactly how the hostages became detached from the main group as Cameroonian authorities have not released details pertaining to the military operation, nor has there been any word from those freed or from the militants.
Boko Haram has seized control of towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria and has begun threatening neighbouring countries. It is believed that the militant group is now in control of areas in northeastern Nigeria that border Cameroon, Chad and Niger. This has prompted fears that militants will not only be able to easily stage attacks within Nigeria, but will also be able to carry out cross-border attacks into Nigeria’s neighbours.
Fears of Boko Haram expanding its operations have resulted in Chad recently deploying soldiers to help Cameroon tackle the militant group. On Friday, Ghana’s President John Mahama disclosed that African leaders would discuss plans this week to “deal permanently” with Boko Haram, suggesting that a multinational force may be considered. Those options follow months of criticism by Niger and Cameroon, who have maintained that Nigerian officials have failed to do more in order to stop Boko Haram’s attacks. Many believe that despite Boko Haram increasing its tempo of attacks, Nigerian politicians are now more focused on campaigning, ahead of next month’s presidential elections, then focusing on the security issues.