SUSPECTED Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped 135 people in a raid on a village in northern Cameroon which left eight villagers dead, local sources said Wednesday.
The raid took place before dawn on Tuesday in the village of Chakamari in a region known as the Extreme North, which borders Boko Haram strongholds in neighbouring Nigeria.
Cameroon, which is part of a regional force fighting Boko Haram, has been hit by a series of deadly Islamist attacks in recent months.
The attack came as Guinea offered help in the regional fight against Boko Haram whose bloody insurgency in Nigeria has increasingly spread to neighbouring states.
“Men from Boko Haram attacked our neighbours in the village of Chakamari overnight Monday-Tuesday. They killed eight people, two women and six men,” a member of a vigilante group in a neighbouring village told AFP.
The vigilante, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the attackers torched many homes before making off with the hostages.
A police source confirmed the death toll and the number of people abducted.
A soldier at the scene confirmed finding six bodies, describing them as vigilantes.
“The villagers told us that more than 50 people had been kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists,” he told AFP.
Though in recent months Boko Haram has seemed to be on the back foot, it has also become very deadly.
In a shocking new video released by the militants a few days ago and shot inside Nigeria shows a uniformed man, thought to be a police officer, being handcuffed, held at gunpoint and beheaded. The beheading is reminiscent of the tactics of the Islamic State.
The footage also shows militants attacking an army barracks. Significantly, a militant is shown in the video with looted army weapons and ammunition, and an ISIS flag. He says the footage shows Nigeria’s military has not forced Boko Haram from its bases in the Sambisa Forest
It came in a week when the Nigerian military reported some good news - the freeing in northeastern Borno of 178 hostages kidnapped by Boko Haram.
Meanwhile, Nigerian authorities said Wednesday that more than 1,000 nationals had returned home after being deported from northern Cameroon.
The refugees had sought shelter in Cameroon from Boko Haram, but were rounded up and sent home as Yaounde stepped up security measures to prevent Boko Haram suicide attacks.
Last week, local sources in Cameroon said Yaounde had deported more than 2,000 Nigerians living illegally in the north of the country.
But Nigerian officials put the number far higher, saying that around 12,000 people had already been expelled, with the number expected to rise to 17,000.
The deportations came after three deadly attacks in Cameroon’s far north last month which left at least 44 people dead.
Also on Wednesday, Guinea’s President Alpha Conde said his country was ready to help in the regional fight against the Islamist militants.
“We are ready to provide any assistance asked of us… in the fight against Boko Haram,” Conde said on a visit to Niger’s capital Niamey.
A beefed-up task force has been set up to replace the current regional force and is due to go into action soon, according to Nigerian official. Chad, Niger and Cameroon are part of the current multinational force.
Boko Haram’s bloody insurgency has left more than 15,000 people dead since 2009 and has increasingly spread across the country’s borders, with Chad and Cameroon suffering deadly suicide bombings in recent months.
Last week Chadian forces said they had killed at least 117 Boko Haram fighters over the previous two weeks in an offensive against the Islamist militants on islands in Lake Chad, the army said.
Two Chadian soldiers died and “several” were injured in the operation, army spokesman Colonel Azem Bermandoa said on state radio Thursday in the capital, N’Djamena.
An unspecified number of boats used by Boko Haram were destroyed and weapons seized, he said.
-Additional reporting by AFP and Bloomberg