YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AFP) – Empty streets, body searches and tips to police embody the fear that Boko Haram has instilled in northern Cameroon, where they killed more than 40 people in suicide bombings in July.
Raiders from the Nigerian sect later kidnapped 135 villagers and killed eight others in a pre-dawn strike across the border last Tuesday, police and local sources said.
Boko Haram has attacked villages in Cameroon s Extreme North region for about two years, but the horrific bombings mark a change of tactics, while Cameroonian troops have joined a regional force to tackle the extremists.
The suicide bombers can be young women and even teenage girls, who behave like locals and blend in at crowded places to cause maximum casualties.
Residents of Maroua, the main town in the Extreme North, were spared until successive blasts tore though the bustling central market and a bar on July 22 and 25. Those bombs killed 33 people and wounded dozens more.
“We re very worried and no longer know where to turn,” says Albert, a worried father.
“Should we send the children to school when the next school year starts?” he ponders. “Boko Haram is against Western education and may very well carry out attacks on schools.”
The sect s name loosely translates as “Western education is forbidden”, and Boko Haram notoriously abducted 276 Nigerian schoolgirls in April last year.
Some managed to escape but more than 200 are believed to be held in the large Sambisa forest, where the Nigerian army this week said it had freed 178 captives.