Chadian troops pictured elsewhere in the Central African Republic
18 January 2015
A contingent of soldiers from Chad has arrived in northern Cameroon where it will deploy to the Nigerian border as part of efforts to contain Boko Haram fighters. The troops arrived in Maroua, the main town in Cameroon’s far-north region, late on Saturday, Colonel Didier Badjeck, Cameroon Defence Ministry spokesperson, said on Sunday.
He declined to say how many soldiers had been dispatched by Nigeria’s northeastern neighbour. “In the coming days, they will be deployed to the war zone on the border with Nigeria so that they can join our defence forces to crush and prevent incursions of Boko Haram into Cameroonian territory,” Badjeck said.
The deployment came as Boko Haram fighters kidnapped at least 60 people in a new attack in northern Cameroon in which some people were killed, police said on Sunday. The fighters “burst into two villages in the Tourou area … They torched houses and left with around 60 people. Most of them were women and children,” a police officer cited by AFP news agency said.
He said the cross-border attack had “left some people dead” without giving an exact toll, adding that the Cameroon army had “launched an operation” in the wake of the assault.
The kidnapping was the biggest in Cameroon by the fighters who have staged a series of attacks in the country in recent months and escalated their bloody campaign in their stronghold in northeastern Nigeria.
Cameroon’s communication and information minister told Al Jazeera the attack took place in a village with no government troops on the ground. Issa Tchiroma, speaking from the capital Yaounde, said: “They [Boko Haram] attacked a village and burnt to ashes 80 residences. “They killed three people, and many people including children and women were taken hostage.” He said he did not have the exact number of the people kidnapped.
Boko Haram, which aims to carve out an Islamist state in northern Nigeria, has stepped up attacks in the region as Africa’s biggest economy prepares for a February 14 presidential election.
Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, who recently appealed for international assistance against Boko Haram, announced earlier this week that he was expecting the arrival of a large Chadian force to support his country’s efforts against the fighters.
Chad has a reputation as one of the region’s best militaries and helped French forces drive al-Qaeda-linked fighters from northern Mali in 2013. Despite the growing cross-border nature of the threat posed by Boko Haram, efforts to deploy a joint force from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon to take on the fighters have faltered.
Ghana’s President John Mahama, who currently heads West African bloc ECOWAS, told Reuters news agency on Friday that regional leaders would seek approval from the African Union next week to create a new force to fight Boko Haram.