The people of northern Cameroon have been living in fear of Islamist attacks since a French family was abducted in February by gunmen claiming to work for the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram. Our special correspondent in Cameroon reports.
A 4x4 abandoned under a tarp in Tabanga police station in northern Cameroon - that’s all investigators managed to retrieve 10 days after the kidnapping of a French family mid-February in this remote part of the country. French gendarmes joined forces with local investigators to search the car for clues, but they left the family’s personal items as they found them.
Deputy chief Haman Mdoudan was on duty on February 19, when French tourist Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, his wife, his brother, and their four kids were abducted at gunpoint on an isolated dirt track a few kilometres away from the Nigerian border. He has no doubt the Nigerian Islamic militant group Boko Haram is behind the attack.
“The nearest village is 7 km away. There are no policeman there. There is only one custom officer and he won’t collaborate for fear of retribution. The Nigerian state of Borneo is dominated 100% by Boko Haram”, the head of the Tabanga police station told FRANCE 24.
“The feeling of fear went up one notch on this side of the border,”FRANCE24’s special correspondent in northern Cameroon reported.
“Boko Haram has been carrying out bomb attacks for the last 10 years in northern Nigeria. With this kidnapping, Boko Haram shows that they can strike inside Cameroonian territory.”
‘It’s hard to identify Boko Haram members’
On the Cameroonian side of the border, locals live in a state of permanent fear. FRANCE 24’s correspondent visited the isolated village of Fotokol, where inhabitants have little choice but to cross over to Nigeria for essential supplies.
Terrified by Boko Haram’s reach, a man agreed to speak to FRANCE 24 only on the condition of anonymity :
“Someone goes to the market and he gets shot (…) his family are left in mourning. The problem is that it’s hard to identify Boko Haram [members]). You can’t recognise them but you know how they’ll act.”
Local authorities admit that going to Nigeria can have fatal consequences.
“The difficulty is that the city across from us, Gambarou in Nigeria, is beset by instability on a daily basis. Until January and February, not a week went by without 2 or 3 people getting killed. And it’s always Boko Haram. When they commit a crime, they make no efforts to hide it,” said Dairou Bouba, Fotokol’s sub-prefect.
Despite their modest means, Cameroonian security forces remain on high alert. Fotokol is far from being an isolated case among the villages upon a border stretching some several hundreds of kilometres.
Date created : 2013-03-01