BOKO HARAM CONTINUES ASSAULT IN NORTHERN NIGERIA, CAMEROON; CHURCHES IMPACTED
From World Watch Monitor
The radical Islamist group Boko Haram has intensified its suicide bombing attacks in northern Nigeria and Cameroon in recent weeks.
On Friday a massive bomb exploded in the market in Maiduguri, in northeastern Nigeria – the traditional heartland of Boko Haram violence. At least six died and 11 were injured.
On July 25, 20 people were killed when a 12-year-old girl blew herself up in a crowded bar in Maroua, northern Cameroon. Seventy-nine others were injured.
However, on Sunday the Nigerian military said it had rescued 178 people – including 101 children and 67 women – taken captive by Boko Haram in the northern Nigerian state of Borno.
Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari visited Cameroon last week in an attempt to boost the regional cooperation against the Islamist group. It is the first time in many years that a Nigerian president has visited Nigeria’s eastern neighbor.
Friction between the two countries, relating to a land dispute, has arguably aided Boko Haram in its attempt to spread its influence across the eastern Nigerian border.
Cameroon has for a long time been one of the weak links in the fight against Boko Haram, with its northern regions becoming a safe haven for militants.
But now things appear to be changing; at least, Buhari has made some headline-grabbing moves to curb the Islamists’ insurgency, which has claimed 17,000 lives since 2009, according to Amnesty International.
As northern Cameroon has become another battleground for Boko Haram militants, there is a genuine need for the two leaders to restore their relations, joining together to fight against a common enemy.
Buhari has also made recent trips to Niger, Chad and Benin. Between them, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Benin have deployed 8,700 soldiers to fight against Boko Haram.
The upsurge in Boko Haram’s attacks in northern Cameroon has caused widespread panic and distrust among the population.
The renewed attacks have also seriously affected churches, Rev. Samuel Heteck, President of the Protestant Churches’ Council in Northern Cameroon, told World Watch Monitor.
“We have observed a lack of concentration among some worshippers during recent services as their ears remain attentive to any movement outside,” he said. “The level of attendance has also fallen in various churches. All our summer programs, such as youth camps, spiritual retreats and evening film-projections have now been cancelled.”
The attacks have also revived fears of more abductions of foreign nationals. All Westerners have been advised to leave the region immediately.
A number of kidnappings targeting foreigners, including a Canadian nun and two priests, have been carried out by Boko Haram in recent months.
Boko Haram has been able to operate relatively freely in the far north of Cameroon because the region is a vast semi-desert area composed of three provinces (Adamawa, North and Far North) and bordering Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic.
“Westerners had started to return to that region, thanks to the apparent normality witnessed from January to the end of June,” said Rev. Heteck. “But this new wave of departures will lead several planned projects to be aborted.”
The construction of a secondary school in Maroua, along with church efforts for the re-settlement of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and refugees, are among other projects which will be affected, said Rev. Heteck.
For months, Cameroon’s churches have been trying to contain the influx of 60,000 Nigerian refugees and thousands of IDPs, who have found refuge in northern Cameroon. But churches have now become overwhelmed, as World Watch Monitor reported in September, 2014.
Nigeria is ranked #10 on Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List (www.worldwatchlist.us) of the worst persecutors of Christians.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.