Hundreds of internally displaced persons in northern Cameroon are deserting camps near the Nigerian border, saying they no longer feel safe after a series of suicide bombings.
The Kolofata central mosque on Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria is now a sanctuary for 70 people who began escaping a nearby IDP camp last Friday, after two suicide bombers disguised as refugees begged for food and blew themselves up.
Nearly a dozen people, including the bombers, were killed and 30 people were wounded.
Forty-year-old Samari Bakassia lost his wife in the attack. Bakassia says he fled the IDP camp with their two-month-old baby because their safety could not be guaranteed.
He says they are scared and are now relying only on God to save them from terrorists.
According to Cameroon’s government, about 150 people deserted the camp that had housed about 500 Cameroonians who were fleeing increasing attacks by Boko Haram militants.
In another incident, two female suicide bombers blew themselves up when a self-defense group identified them as attackers headed to the camp. The bombers killed a member of the self-defense group and wounded at least a dozen people.
Doctor Vohod Deguime says 17 women and three children, one younger than 2 months old, are among the wounded who have come from Kolofata and Mora in the past 24 hours. He says those patients refuse to return to the IDP camp once their treatment ends.
It is the first time such attacks on IDPs have been reported. Most such incidents have targeted refugee camps for foreign nationals escaping Boko Haram. Last year, the Cameroonian government reported that suicide bombers were posing as refugees to attack the Minawao refugee camp, which hosts at least 65,000 Nigerians. Soldiers were then deployed to the area and access to the camp strictly controlled.
The governor of the far north region of Cameroon, Midjiyawa Bakari, says IDP camps need similar security measures, especially since five of 23 suicide bomb attacks recorded this year have occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that began several days ago.
Bakari is calling for vigilance, saying suicide bombers in disguise are trying to deceive Muslims engaged in acts of charity required by the Quran. Boko Haram is still very active, he says, and no one should be deceived that the terror group has been defeated.
Authorities are condemning the acts of barbarism that have increased during this period of fasting and intensive prayer, Bakari says, adding that self-defense groups should be created in all mosques and public places to assist the military in tracking suspects.
The United Nations says that about 200,000 Cameroonians — 70 percent women and children — have been displaced by the ongoing Boko Haram conflict.