Anti-Boko Haram Trenches
Cameroon’s far north region, on the border with Nigeria, is facing a rise in suicide bombings blamed on Boko Haram extremists. To deal with the spate of attacks, by August 2017 Cameroonian authorities were digging a major defence mechanism: a trench that will stretch for some 100 kilometers along the border. The aim is simple: to keep the extremists out.
The trench in Camaroon followed the deep ditch a giant bulldozer dug among the bushes surrounding the University of Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria, turning it into a fortress to prevent further suicide attacks by Boko Haram. Besides the fencing of some few kilometers of the frontage of the university with blocks (beginning from the Mairi neighborhood while approaching the campus from Maiduguri), the remaining frontage only had metal fence, while the back of the entire university was only covered with trenches that were dug at the height of the insurgency.
About 27 kilometers (17 miles) of trenches were dug around the institution, known locally as UNIMAID, which since the start of 2017 had become a main target of the Islamist militants. The governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima, in response announced financial help of 50 million naira ($160,000, 140,000 euros) to construct a perimeter trench several metres (feet) deep.
In 2014, when attacks were a recurrent decimal in Maiduguri and it was practically impossible to have security operatives everywhere, the Borno State Government, in collaboration with the military, carved nearly 100 kilometres circumference around the state capital and dug deep trenches. The trenches started from Jimtilo, along the Maiduguri-Damaturu road, through the neighbourhoods of Bakassi, Molai in Damboa road, the 21 Armoured Brigade, across Dikwa road along Customs area, up to the Maimalari Barracks area, the Maximum Prisons along Baga road and behind the Garrison Command of the Nigerian Army, along Pompomari area.
The trenches had, for three years, deterred Boko Haram insurgents from getting into Maiduguri in large convoys because no vehicle could get into the town without passing through checkpoints mounted at the four major entry points.
Since 2014, Boko Haram had expanded its attacks outside of northeastern Nigeria and has conducted attacks in northern Cameroon. Boko Haram, which translates to “Western education is forbidden,” is an Islamic extremist organization based in northeastern Nigeria, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in March 2015. Since its insurgency in Nigeria began in 2009, Boko Haram has killed an estimated 20,000 and displaced 2.3 million. In 2014, the group kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a village in northeastern Nigeria, releasing 21 in October 2016 following negotiations with the Nigerian Government.
The Boko Haram terrorist group has actively targeted foreign residents, tourists, and government leaders in the North and Far North Regiona of Cameroon. Thirty-seven foreigners have been reported kidnapped since 2013. Since July 2015, the group has carried out dozens of suicide bombings in the North and Far North Regions, including the city of Maroua.
In September 2015, the United States pledged $45 million to a Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin to combat Nigeria-based terrorist group Boko Haram. In October 2015, the U.S. government announced that it was deploying up to 300 troops to assist the regional effort to counter Boko Haram with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. In October 2016, military planners from the US, Cameroon, and six African and European nations converged to begin the initial planning for the inaugural US Army Africa-led exercise Unified Focus 2017, scheduled for April 2017.
Conflict and insecurity across the Lake Chad Basin continue to displace populations and exacerbate humanitarian needs. Suspected Boko Haram militants repeatedly attacked civilians in June 2017 and early July 2017, resulting in dozens of deaths and injuries. In response to conflict-related humanitarian needs in the region.
Suspected Boko Haram militants conducted approximately 30 attacks in June 2017 across the Lake Chad Basin, primarily in Cameroon’s Far North Region near the Cameroon–Nigeria border and Nigeria’s Borno, the UN reports. The security situation in Borno is particularly concerning, as the UN recorded more than double the number of attacks in the state between January and June compared to the incidents reported during the same period in 2016. In Cameroon, increased attacks have prompted authorities to implement additional security measures and restrict civilian movements.
From July 1–5, armed actors in Far North’s Mayo-Sava Department attacked three communities near the Cameroon– Nigeria border, resulting in at least 11 deaths and displacing an estimated 100 people, international media reported. The early July attacks follow an increase in security incidents in Far North during May and June, according to the UN. On June 21, armed actors attacked the department’s Kolofata town, resulting in at least 11 deaths and injuring nine people. The incident—the tenth in Mayo-Sava in June—prompted some UN agencies and NGOs to suspend operations in the area. Ongoing insecurity, including attacks against civilians and repeated use of improved explosive devices, have exacerbated humanitarian needs and impeded relief operations in the region.
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