Cameroon has closed most of its northern markets on the border with Nigeria after a series of bomb attacks Monday left at least 35 people dead and 70 wounded in the town of Bodo. The country’s government spokesperson, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, said it was the 30th attack by suspected Boko Haram fighters on Cameroon since the start of the new year.
Businessman Inoussa Yegie says shock and consternation has gripped the town of Bodo, where Monday’s attack took place. He says it will take time for them to recover, in spite of the heavy deployment of troops. The 33-year-old says the decision by the government to close all border markets in their locality may backfire, especially now that Boko Haram fighters are recruiting young people to steal and seize money and goods from farmers and traders.
Yegie says traders are becoming poorer because all their shops have been sealed. He says youths who use commercial motorcycles to transport goods and people from the market to supply towns in Nigeria no longer have jobs, and they may now be tempted to join Boko Haram fighters who promise them better lives.
Bombers disguised as traders
Midjiyawa Bakari, the governor of the far north region of Cameroon, says the decision to close markets on Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria until further notice was taken for security reasons because the four female suicide bombers who attacked Bodo were disguised as traders and hid explosives in bags of vegetables they pretended to sell.
“The decision has been taken to close some markets in the border but people have been persisting to sell and to buy things. They should know that Boko Haram is looking for where people are gathering to do these attacks,” he said.
After Monday’s attack, Cameroon soldiers launched raids on the Nigerian town of Achigashia, from where they believe the suicide bombers came. Cameroon’s spokesperson Issa Tchiroma Bakary says 17 insurgents were killed in the operation. He says Cameroon has counted at least 30 attacks on its territory this year.
“Faced with such harassment both un-grounded and unjustified, our defense and security forces have always retaliated leading the enemy to incur several setbacks that has considerably weakened the group and reduced it to mere acts of cowardice, especially suicide bombings, which have become its modus operandi,” he said.
Solidarity in fight against Boko Haram
In Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, groups of people have been visiting and sympathizing with Bodo’s elite. Ngufor Jacob, leader of Cameroon’s university students association, says that by visiting with people from Bodo, his group shows solidarity with Cameroon and Nigerian forces fighting Boko Haram terrorism.
“I came out to show solidarity with my brothers and sisters in the north who are suffering from the onslaughts of Boko Haram insurgents. I came out to show to the military that we are one, we are together. We may not have guns to join them in the north but they should know that we have them at heart. We are praying for them, we are supporting them,” he said.
Cameroon believes the militants have resorted to attacking mosques, markets, churches and palaces of traditional rulers because the terrorist group’s firepower has been drastically reduced following attacks on their strongholds within the past two months by Cameroon and Nigerian troops.
Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency has killed more than 20,000 people and displaced close to 2.3 million, according to Amnesty International and the United Nations.