“Every day there are suicide bombers, there is theft of cattle, there are killings and kidnapping of people and theft of goods,” a Barnabas Fund partner based in Cameroon wrote on 10 February. Boko Haram attacks in the Far North region of Cameroon have increased since the beginning of the year, he wrote, targeting the country’s Christian population as well as moderate Muslims.
Most recently, for example, two female suicide bombers attacked a marketplace in the village of Mémé, between the town of Maroua and the Nigerian border, at 9 am on Friday (19 February), killing 21 people, including three Christians. This marketplace was regularly used by our partners working on the ground there to provide food and other basic needs to assist victims of anti-Christian violence and displaced Christians in the area. And on 10 February, two female suicide bombers killed eight Christian women who had gathered to mourn the death of another Christian woman.
But it is not just the suicide bombs that have affected the Christian population. Two Christian women died after suffering heart attacks just after they had given birth. “They heard guns firing and were filled with fear because they could not flee like everyone else,” wrote our project partner.
Although Boko Haram is mainly active in Nigeria, the jihadi group crosses the border into Cameroon, as well as Chad and Niger, to carry out attacks.
In December, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari claimed that Nigeria had “technically won the war” against Boko Haram, but international analysts say that the group is merely adapting its techniques to deal with recent losses of territory.
The Nigerian military has managed to free several groups of hostages, and said on 18 February that it had managed to rescue 195 people who had been taken hostage by the group.
According to a report released on 16 February by British-based charity International Alert and UNICEF, many of the women who are freed from Boko Haram are rejected by their communities when they return home. According to the report, the freed women are often called “annoba”, which means epidemics, or “Boko Haram wives”. Local communities are concerned that the women may have been radicalised while being held by the jihadists – a belief that is cemented by the regularity of suicide bomb attacks carried out by women.
Since Boko Haram began its violent campaign in 2009, some 20,000 people have been killed and an estimated 2.8 million people have been displaced. As many as 2,000 women and children have been kidnapped by the group since 2012.
The sheer scale of the violence perpetrated by Boko Haram has made it the deadliest jihadi group in the world, responsible for the deaths of 6,644 people in 2014 alone, according to the Global Terrorism Index.