Militants kill, maim in attacks in west and north Africa
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.