Nigeria’s campaign to quash the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has triggered a surge of bombings in neighboring Cameroon, where the army says it’s making headway in stopping attacks on military targets.
Cameroon’s Far North region has been hit by as many as 19 militant attacks since the beginning of the year, mostly bombings by teenagers with explosive devices strapped to their bodies. At least 74 people were killed, in addition to almost 1,100 civilians who died in extremist violence since 2013, according to government data.
“Increased military pressure in Nigeria has forced militants across the border,” Malte Liewerscheidt, senior Africa analyst at Bath, England-based risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said in e-mailed comments. “Boko Haram operates rear bases in remote border areas, which are supported by networks based on ethnic kinship in Cameroon’s Far North region. These factors enable Boko Haram to operate with a degree of impunity.”
Following his election last year, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the army of Africa’s biggest economy to wipe out Boko Haram. The group has since lost territory in the northeast but continues to carry out bombings and hit-and-run attacks.
Cameroon, the world’s fifth-biggest cocoa producer, is situated on the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea and has sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth-largest proven gas reserves totaling 4.8 trillion cubic feet, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The Cameroonian government says it’s defeating the insurgents with the help of a joint military task force set up in August to combat a surge in cross-border attacks. The 8,700-member force will consist of soldiers from Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad, and Niger, countries which have all been targeted by the militants. France and China have pledged to donate weapons and vehicles.
The task force has a mandate to operate in several countries and “has been doing so with great success, as seen by the tactical changes Boko Haram has been obliged to make,” army spokesman Didier Badjeck said by phone from Yaounde, the capital. “They have been forced to adopt guerrilla tactics and suicide bombings.”