Fears in Cameroon of Boko Haram re­cruit­ment “

Daily Trust - - NEWS -

Nigeria’s ex­trem­ist Is­lamist group Boko Haram are be­lieved to be ac­tively re­cruit­ing fighters across the bor­der in Cameroon’s Far North Re­gion, ac­cord­ing to res­i­dents and lo­cal govern­ment of­fi­cials.

More than 100 sus­pected Boko Haram fighters and preach­ers (the lat­ter pre­sumed to have links with the group), have been ar­rested in Far North Re­gion since 2012, but many have been re­leased due to lack of ev­i­dence, ac­cord­ing to a lo­cal se­cu­rity of­fi­cial.

“There are many Mus­lim broth­ers com­ing from Nigeria with the aim of preach­ing to the youths. The govern­ment has warned against this prac­tice, but they still reach out to the young people be­cause they make them prom­ises and give them money,” said Ibrahim Ha­man, an Is­lamic preacher and el­der in Mora District in the Far North.

Res­i­dents of Mayo-Sava area in Far North Re­gion say that uniden­ti­fied preach­ers are se­cretly reach­ing out to youths in their lo­cal­ity. Ha­man pointed out that some youths have man­aged to es­cape the sect af­ter be­ing re­cruited, but many oth­ers have not re­turned.

“Boko Haram is con­sid­ered here as just an­other re­li­gious group, and it is not dif­fi­cult to be a mem­ber if you want to. Young people from here have been in­duced into join­ing Boko Haram,” he said.

Mil­i­tary train­ing

Seven­teen-year-old Mustapha [not real name] re­counted to IRIN how he was brought back home to Cameroon blind­folded af­ter fail­ing to cope with the in­sur­gents’ mil­i­tary train­ing. He had been taken to Nigeria by a preacher.

“I was the youngest among eight other boys who told me they came from the towns of Banki, Kolo­fata and Nge­shawa [in Cameroon] and Maiduguri [in Nigeria]. Be­fore I was taken, they told my fa­ther that I would come back rich and a great Mus­lim, so he al­lowed me to go. We were read­ing the Ko­ran and they would preach to us about fight­ing for the Mus­lim faith,” said Mustapha.

“I went for my sec­ond mil­i­tary train­ing in the moun­tains, but suf­fered many in­juries and I was bedrid­den for one month,” he said, ex­plain­ing that he was brought back as his in­juries ruled him un­fit for com­bat.

A govern­ment of­fi­cial in Mora District, how­ever, said that it is dif­fi­cult to as­cer­tain that Boko Haram is re­cruit­ing from Cameroo­nian bor­der vil­lages. There are sim­i­lar eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties in Cameroon’s Far North and north­east­ern Nigeria who have fam­ily on ei­ther side of the bor­der, speak the same lan­guage and share a com­mon cul­ture, mak­ing un­de­tected cross-bor­der move­ment easy.

“We don’t re­ally have enough ev­i­dence to say clearly that Boko Haram re­cruits Cameroo­ni­ans, but what is clear is that those fight­ing with them are from the bor­der re­gions and can claim the na­tion­al­ity of ei­ther coun­try when­ever it suits them,” said the of­fi­cial on con­di­tion of anonymity.

But a Mora res­i­dent who gave his name only as Daibu said that his brother dis­ap­peared in 2012 soon af­ter join­ing a lo­cal Ko­ranic school. “He just left and never came back. We heard from people that he had joined Boko Haram.”

Widen­ing threat

The threat of Boko Haram is wide­spread in Cameroo­nian vil­lages bor­der­ing north­east­ern Nigeria. A Nige­rian mil­i­tary of­fen­sive launched in May 2013 pushed back the Is­lamists from ma­jor towns in the coun­try’s north­east to re­mote ar­eas. But at­tacks by the in­sur­gents have since be­come more deadly and fre­quent.

There are sus­pi­cions that Boko Haram is also re­cruit­ing from neigh­bour­ing Niger. Some ob­servers have also linked the group with Is­lamist in­sur­gents who seized Mali’s north af­ter the March 2012 over­throw of the govern­ment in Ba­mako.

In­se­cu­rity in Cameroon’s Far North Re­gion caused by Boko Haram has crip­pled trade be­tween the re­gion and north­east­ern Nigeria. Yaoundé au­thor­i­ties have bol­stered se­cu­rity, but in­fil­tra­tion and kid­nap­pings by gun­men sus­pected to be linked to the rad­i­cal Is­lamists have not

We strongly be­lieve that Boko Haram has el­e­ments in Cameroon…

The ma­noeu­vres they make in Cameroon ter­ri­tory is ev­i­dence that these groups have a good mas­tery

of the ter­rain…

stopped.

In the third kid­nap­ping of for­eign­ers here since early 2013, sus­pected Boko Haram fighters ear­lier this month seized two Ital­ian priests and a Cana­dian nun.

“Boko Haram had sent a let­ter to vil­lages with warn­ings that all beer par­lours should stop the sale of al­co­hol in Mora, Banki and other lo­cal­i­ties along the bor­der. We can’t iden­tify them but we just know that they are among us or have in­for­mants here,” said Mer­cel Ken­for, a trader in Mora.

The Mora govern­ment of­fi­cial told IRIN: “Boko Haram has of­ten sent warn­ings to the com­mu­ni­ties. We have is­sued a cur­few from 6pm to 6am that cov­ers all com­mu­ni­ties in Mora District. We also for­bid mo­tor­bike traf­fic at night be­cause we dis­cov­ered that Boko Haram use mo­tor­bikes to com­mit crimes.”

There are mil­i­tary pa­trols as well, said the of­fi­cial, “but the mil­i­tary needs to be given the right weapons and ca­pac­ity to fight Boko Haram that has [more lethal] weapons like rocket launch­ers and grenades.”

“We strongly be­lieve that Boko Haram has el­e­ments in Cameroon and the au­thor­i­ties are do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to track them down. The ma­noeu­vres they make in Cameroon ter­ri­tory is ev­i­dence that these groups have a good mas­tery of the ter­rain and the armed men could in­clude lo­cal Cameroo­ni­ans and those from neigh­bour­ing coun­tries,” said Em­manuel Bob-Iga, head of the po­lice di­vi­sion at the Far North gover­nor’s of­fice.

Mil­i­tary com­man­der Beau­fils Mana said Boko Haram in­cur­sions are be­ing abet­ted by some lo­cal res­i­dents.

“It is ob­vi­ous that Boko Haram uses some Cameroo­ni­ans. This is be­cause an in­truder can­not en­ter your ter­ri­tory when he has no idea of the area. Boko Haram must be col­lud­ing with Cameroo­ni­ans to be able to move around eas­ily.” [ IRINnews.org]

An home­stead in north­ern Cameroon. Res­i­dents and lo­cal of­fi­cials fear that Boko Haram mil­i­tants are re­cruit­ing fighters in Cameroon’s Far North Re­gion

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