Mil­i­tants kill, maim in at­tacks in west and north Africa

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - REUTERS AND ANA

IS­LAMIC mil­i­tants have car­ried out sev­eral at­tacks in Cameroon, Niger, Mali and Al­ge­ria over the past few days, leav­ing at least 19 dead and scores in­jured as the au­thor­i­ties in those coun­tries con­tinue to bat­tle the in­sur­gents.

Two sui­cide bombers killed nine other peo­ple and wounded 30 yes­ter­day near a camp in north­ern Cameroon hous­ing civil­ians dis­placed by Boko Haram mil­i­tants.

The bombers – both men – en­tered the town of Kolo­fata, about 10km from the bor­der with Nige­ria, be­fore dawn yes­ter­day, pos­ing as refugees look­ing for food be­fore the start of the day­time fast for Ra­madaan.

“Once among the pop­u­la­tion, they det­o­nated their ex­plo­sives, one af­ter the other,” Mind­jiyawa Bakary, gov­er­nor of Cameroon’s Far North re­gion, said.

“It was un­bear­able. Peo­ple were scream­ing. Oth­ers were moan­ing. It was to­tal hor­ror,” said a po­lice­man.

North­ern Cameroon has in re­cent years suf­fered from the over­flow of vi­o­lence linked to Boko Haram. Nige­rian refugees have flooded across the bor­der and res­i­dents have been forced to flee their homes.

Boko Haram launches fre­quent cross-bor­der raids in its bid to carve out an Is­lamic caliphate. Its eight-year in­sur­gency has killed more than 20 000 peo­ple and dis­placed 2 mil­lion in the Lake Chad re­gion.

Vil­lages and towns in the area have reg­u­larly been tar­geted by sui­cide bombers.

The of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day’s bomb­ing came a day af­ter sui­cide bombers – two young girls – det­o­nated their ex­plo­sives in the nearby vil­lage of Djakana, lightly in­jur­ing two mem­bers of a lo­cal civil­ian self-de­fence force.

Ear­lier this week, six se­cu­rity agents were killed in south-western Niger, near the Malian bor­der, where ji­hadists have in­creased their ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Just when ev­ery­one was pre­par­ing to break the Ra­madaan fast, we heard shots in the town. The ex­change of fire lasted al­most two hours,” a school teacher in Abala told Anafi, a lo­cal ra­dio sta­tion.

In an­other at­tack on Thurs­day morn­ing, sev­eral French sol­diers from a re­gional counter- ter­ror­ism op­er­a­tion were wounded in a mor­tar at­tack on a UN peace­keep­ing camp in north­ern Mali.

De­spite French mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in 2013 which pushed in­sur­gent groups back from north­ern Mali, mil­i­tant and crim­i­nal gangs have con­tin­ued to op­er­ate in the desert strad­dling the bor­der be­tween Mali and Niger.

Mean­while, gun­men at­tacked an Al­ge­rian mil­i­tary pa­trol in an area south of the cap­i­tal Algiers, slightly wound­ing four gen­darmes, the min­istry of de­fence said, in an at­tack later claimed by Is­lamic State (IS).

Gun­men opened fire on the gen­darmerie pa­trol late on Wed­nes­day in Lar­baa, about 30km south of Algiers, the min­istry said.

Con­firm­ing the at­tack, Amaq, the IS-af­fil­i­ated news agency, said its fight­ers am­bushed the pa­trol and claimed to have de­stroyed two ve­hi­cles, ac­cord­ing to the SITE ji­hadist mon­i­tor­ing ser­vice.

Al­ge­rian armed forces have been crack­ing down on mil­i­tants tied to IS. An at­tempted sui­cide bomb at­tack was foiled in April in the north-eastern city of Con­stan­tine, with one at­tacker killed and a sec­ond ar­rested.

Is­lamist mil­i­tants have car­ried out or at­tempted sev­eral at­tacks on se­cu­rity tar­gets in Con­stan­tine in the past few months.

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