More than 10,000 panic-stricken Cameroonians are fleeing border regions with Nigeria’s Borno state for safer locations after attacks by Nigeria’s Islamic militant group Boko Haram, government officials said.
Boko Haram has, in the past month, raided at least two dozen villages and towns in northern Cameroon. The group also kidnapped dozens of people during an attack on Mabass village on Sunday.
The insurgents are looting food and livestock, and a humanitarian and food crisis looms, the minister of territorial administration and decentralisation Rene Emmanuel Sadi said.
Students and teachers are among those who have fled their homes. More than 10 schools were deserted after attacks on Sunday, adding to the about 140 schools that have shut their doors because of the insurgency bleeding over into Cameroon, said Cameroon’s minister of education Monouna Fotso. The government is trying to accommodate the affected students.
There is a moral obligation for safer schools to admit the children despite limited resources and space, said Bernadette Appi, a teacher at a primary school in Maroua, where some children have been moved.
The attacks in Cameroon highlight the growing regional threat posed by Boko Haram. The militant group seeks to impose Islamic Shariah law in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with 170 million people. The group has seized villages in an area stretching about 155 miles (250km) along the border between Cameroon and Nigeria.
Boko Haram attacked Mabass village, in the Far North region of Cameroon, early on Sunday and staged its largest kidnapping yet in the country, according to the government. The military said up to 60 people were kidnapped, though about 30 eventually escaped.
Chadian troops began arriving in Cameroon on Sunday to support Cameroon’s army in the fight against the militants.
Neighbouring countries increasingly are being drawn into Nigeria’s five-year Islamic uprising, which has killed thousands and driven 1.6 million people from their homes, including across borders into Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
Boko Haram has been recruiting fighters in all three countries, officials said.