Thirty-two people were killed on Monday when at least three suicide bombers blew themselves up at a market in northern Cameroon, a region often targeted by Nigeria’s Boko Haram, officials said.
Police said the assailants hit a local market in Bodo village near the frontier with Nigeria in one of the deadliest attacks in the Far North region since 2013.
“The initial toll reported 32 dead and 86 wounded,” said regional governor Midjiyawa Bakari.
An earlier report mentioned three suicide bombers but a local source said there were four young girl bombers.
Nearly 1,200 people have been killed since 2013 when Boko Haram began attacking Cameroon’s Far North, an area that borders the Islamist group’s stronghold in northeastern Nigeria.
“In total, 1,098 civilians, 67 of our soldiers and three police officials have been killed in these barbaric attacks by the Boko Haram terrorist group,” communications minister Issa Chiroma Bakary said earlier this month.
In that time, officials say there have been more than 30 suicide attacks blamed on Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group.
This year, there have been attacks on an almost daily basis, some of which have been backed by incursions.
Last week, four worshippers were killed in a suicide bombing at a mosque in the northern village of Nguetchewe, just days after a similar attack on another mosque in the Far North killed 12.
Increasing cross-border attacks
In recent years, Boko Haram fighters have slipped back and forth across the frontier, often using Cameroon’s remote north as a rear base, acquiring arms, vehicles and supplies there.
But since late November, the Cameroon army has carried out operations in several border areas aimed at weakening Nigerian jihadists active in the region, with sources saying the raids have significantly weakened Boko Haram’s capabilities.
As a result, the insurgents have turned away from direct confrontation with the military in favour of suicide attacks, increasingly staged by women and girls.
The Nigeria-based jihadists have killed at least 17,000 people and made more than 2.6 million others homeless since their six-year campaign began.
Boko Haram, facing the heat of a military onslaught back home, has in the past year stepped up cross-border attacks in Niger, Chad and Cameroon while continuing shooting and suicide assaults on markets, mosques and other mostly civilian targets within Nigeria itself.
The group has increasingly targeted imams and traditional chiefs for their opposition to the Islamists.
Cameroon has meanwhile banned the Islamic veil in a bid to pre-empt suicide bombings staged by attackers wearing the full-face veil.
Along with Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Benin, Cameroon is part of a regional military force fighting the jihadists.
Despite the offensives launched by the regional force, the group maintains strongholds in areas that are difficult to access, such as the Sambisa forest, the Mandara mountains and the numerous islands of Lake Chad.