Cameroonian soldiers in a Landcruiser gun truck armed with a Chinese-made Type 58 twin 14.5mm AAMG system.
Troops guarding the 2,000km-long border face a difficult task. Cameroon’s military has called for international assistance
PHOTO CREDIT: SKY NEWS
by Alex Crawford
Special Correspondent in Cameroon
20 June, 2014
Boko Haram militancy is spreading across West African nations much like the ISIS fundamentalism terrorising Syria and Iraq, Cameroon has warned.
Lieutenant Colonel Didier Badjeck, the country’s defence ministry spokesman,told Sky News the militant Islamic sect could only be stopped by the combined efforts of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, as well as more international involvement.
Sky News was given exclusive access to Cameroon’s elite military rapid response unit, the Battalion D’Intervention Rapide, or BIR, and travelled to the north of the country to see the soldiers’ operations on the border with Nigeria.
A multi-national team is still hunting more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram from their school in Chibok in northeast Nigeria on April 14.The schoolgirls are thought to have been split into several groups and some intelligence sources fear at least one of the groups may have been smuggled across the border into Cameroon.
Hundreds of Cameroon’s top soldiers have been sent to the border to hunt for the missing girls and curb the Boko Haram militancy. The militants repeatedly attack border communities, destroying schools and burning homes inside Cameroon.
The huge border, which is more than 2,000km (1,243 miles) long, is porous and, from our evidence, exceedingly difficult to police. The terrain is rocky, in some cases mountainous, undeveloped and remote. Even with hundreds of troops stationed along it, they appear to be having limited success.
A number of the border villages have been abandoned by terrified communities who have fled Africa’s largest economy to take refuge in impoverished neighbouring Cameroon.
In Camp Minawao, about 5,000 people are taking shelter. Sky News’ Cameroonian translator shook his head in disbelief as he saw the camp for the first time. Refugee Aga Musa said he had crossed over the border with his eight children because “there was no one to protect us” from Boko Haram.
In northeast Nigeria, schools have been closed because of the insecurity caused by Boko Haram, whose name means Western education is forbidden. In the Cameroon camp, children run to school where they can learn in safety – or have done so far.
Musa Lava, who has spent a year in the camp and is one of a team of teachers there, begged soldiers to guard them. “We are worried the militants are going to come here,” he said. “They are spreading and they are going to come here soon too.”