A pair of female suicide bombers killed four people and left a trail of injury in north Cameroon Thursday, the second such attacks this week in a region targeted by Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists.
Only two attacks in the town of Kerawa were successful and three others were foiled, a member of a local vigilante group said.
“There were new suicide attacks this morning in Kerawa,” said a regional security source contacted by AFP. “Four civilians were killed. Many others were hurt.”
The member of the vigilante committee set up to ward off such attacks said the assailants were both women and confirmed that six people had died in all, including the bombers.
“Five women planned to blow themselves up in Kerawa today but two of them were arrested and the fifth is on the run,” the member said, adding that one of the arrested women “is the wife of a Boko Haram chief in the Kerawa region.”
The security source said the attacks were carefully timed as members of the vigilante group had been called to a nearby town to receive silver medals from the local governor for their role in pre-empting Boko Haram attacks.
The attacks took place next to a school sheltering people displaced from their homes by Boko Haram’s six-year campaign of terror.
The jihadists initially confined their war to Nigeria but last year saw a sharp increase in cross-border attacks in Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
Kerawa was the scene of one such assault in September in which 20 people were killed.
And on Monday, at least 37 people died in four suicide attacks at a market in Bodo, also in Cameroon’s extreme north.
Nearly 1,200 people have been killed since 2013 when Boko Haram began attacking Cameroon’s Far North region bordering the Islamist group’s stronghold in northeastern Nigeria, according to government spokesman, Communications Minister Issa Chiroma Bakary.
– ‘Barbaric attacks’ –
“In total, 1,098 civilians, 67 of our soldiers and three police officials have been killed in these barbaric attacks by the Boko Haram terrorist group,” he said earlier this month.
In that time, officials say there have been more than 30 suicide attacks blamed on Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group.
In recent years, Boko Haram fighters had slipped back and forth across the frontier, often using Cameroon’s remote north as a rear base, acquiring arms, vehicles and supplies there.
But since late November, the Cameroon army has carried out operations in several border areas aimed at weakening Nigerian jihadists active in the region, with sources saying the raids have significantly weakened Boko Haram’s capabilities.
As a result, the insurgents turned away from direct confrontation with the military in favour of suicide attacks, increasingly staged by women and girls.
The Nigeria-based jihadists have killed at least 17,000 people and made more than 2.6 million others homeless since their six-year campaign began.
Cameroon has meanwhile banned the Islamic veil in a bid to pre-empt suicide bombings staged by attackers wearing the full-face veil.
Along with Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Benin, Cameroon is part of a regional military force fighting the jihadists.
Despite the offensives launched by the regional force, the group maintains strongholds in areas that are difficult to access, such as the Sambisa forest, the Mandara mountains and the numerous islands of Lake Chad.