Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mubi battle: 300 Nigerian soldiers flee to Cameroon again

No fewer than 300 Nigerian soldiers fled to Cameroon when Boko Haram insurgents overran Mubi, the second largest city in Borno State from security forces on Wednesday

Cameroonian military sources told our correspondent that Nigerian soldiers fled the north-eastern part of Nigeria, where the insurgency launched by the sect was raging, and crossed the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

From The Punch:

The sources also said more Nigerian troops might have fled to other border towns in Cameroon after the Mubi attack. However, he added that their number had yet to be ascertained.

SUNDAY PUNCH also learnt that the deserting Nigerian soldiers would be moved away from the border areas to more secure locations, where they would be disarmed, fed and eventually repatriated to Nigeria.

The insurgents had taken over Mararaba Hildi, some few kilometres to Mubi town, on Tuesday, prompting a mass exodus of residents.

Hundreds of soldiers were said to have fled Mubi, which hosts two universities, as insurgents made advances to take over the town on Wednesday.

Speaking to SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday under the condition of anonymity, a senior Cameroonian military officer involved in the provision of welfare materials to the deserters, said, “They (Nigerian soldiers) are mostly around Boucla village in Bourha sub-division.

“So far, we can estimate the number of arrivals to be at about 300. These are the ones who arrived in uniform but we know that there are several others who shed their uniforms for civilian attires.”

The Mubi rout also forced thousands of Nigerian civilians to hit border villages in Cameroon in Benoue and Mayo Louti Divisions, and around Gachiga town.

It was, however, learnt that Cameroonian government was worried about the increasing number of refugees and where to keep them.

The relocation of Nigerian refugees was said to have become necessary as insurgents had previously attacked locations where fleeing Nigerian soldiers were housed.

Protests by indigenes of the border towns over attacks on the camps were said to have forced the Cameroonian government to adopt a policy of moving deserters far away from the border and out of the reach of Boko Haram.

It was further learnt that Cameroon had begun screening of deserters and refugees to prevent infiltration by insurgents.

“This time around, we are conducting a more thorough screening to avoid letting in Boko Haram infiltrators, who are known to inhabit the ranks of the Nigerian military,” an official of the Cameroonian government had told our correspondent in confidence.

Another Cameroonian military officer, who insisted on anonymity, expressed fears over possible infiltration of the country’s system through the refugee camps. He declined to give further details on how the screening was being conducted.

He said, “Taking them in is not something to make noise about. You and I know that we are in a military situation here. This is a war zone with Boko Haram spies crawling all over the place.

“The number we take and where we take them are obviously a military intelligence affair and nobody can give you that information, even if you were to approach the authorities in Yaounde.”

In a related development, SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that Boko Haram had been cultivating and recruiting local fighters among Cameroonian youths.

The sect is operating cells that have been in operation in Cameroon for over three years, recruiting through what a source described as “financial enticement and intimidation.”

Community leaders in the Far North region says thousands of Cameroonian youths had joined the ranks of Boko Haram since the beginning of the year.

“These are mostly young unemployed Cameroonians lured by handsome financial proposals by Boko Haram point men. Other Boko Haram sleeper cells are run by senior Islamists intimidated into doing the bidding of the sect,” one of the traditional leaders in the area, who refused to have his name in print, told our correspondent.

Recruitment of youths by the sect is said to be gaining ground in Cameroon and other neighbouring countries, raising fears that the activities of the insurgents might spread to other parts of West-African sub-region.

The sect had abducted seven members of the Fournier family from France in Cameroon in 2013. They were later released after a huge amount of money was reportedly paid as ransom.

Senior military sources confirmed that some high-ranking Boko Haram members arrested in Cameroon were exchanged for the release of the wife of the Cameroonian Vice-Prime Minister, Ahmadou Ali, and 16 members of his family who were abducted in Kolofata on July 27, as well as 10 Chinese road workers abducted in Waza in April, 2014.

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