By Dibussi Tande
In 2015, Boko Haram carried out 34 separate suicide attacks in Cameroon, killing about 200 people and injuring close to 400.
In July 2015, Boko Haram carried out its first ever suicide attack on Cameroonian soil. This event marked a new phase in Boko Haram’s ever-evolving strategy of confrontation with Cameroon.
Security forces carrying away a victim after the first Maroua attack (c) AFP
The first phase of that confrontation had been characterized by regular cross border incursions into Cameroon, with the first officially acknowledged incursion occurring on April 10 2012 in the town of Banki.
The second phase involved the kidnapping of locals and foreigners primarily for ransom. Some high-profile foreign captives included the Moulin-Fournier family, kidnapped in February 2013, Father Georges Vandenbeusch kidnapped in November 2013, two Italian priests and a Canadia nun captured in April 2014, and nine Chinese workers captured in May 2014. The most prominent Cameroonian captives included Françoise-Agnès Moukouri, wife of Cameroon’s Vice Prime Minister Ahmadou Ali, and Seini Boukar Lamine, the Lamido of Kolofata, both captured in July 2014 in Kolofata.
The fourth and current phase in Boko Haram’s war against Cameroon is characterized primarily by guerrilla warfare, and acts of terrorism and hit-and-run armed raids. Boko Haram's preferred method has been suicide missions that create widespread fear and panic in Cameroonian towns, completely disrupting daily life. The recent change of strategy has coincided with Boko Haram’s dwindling fortunes on the field. Not only has it lost control of the vast swathes of Nigerian territory it captured in 2014, it is no longer in a position to launch brazen frontal assaults on the Cameroonian side of the border similar to its December 2014 attack on Achigashia. As Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon’s Minister of Communications and Government spokesperson, stated recently,
"They have shifted their tactics. They have noticed it is impossible to face our forces, so they are now using young girls or young boys with explosives, who go more undetected, in areas they are told to go."
Suicide bombings thus became the new normal in the Far North region of Cameroon in 2015 with 34 separate attacks that left about 200 dead and nearly 400 wounded. Here is the roll call of infamy cataloging these dastardly attacks that changed the face of the war with the jihadist terrorist group.
July 12, 2015: 13 killed and seven wounded in double suicide attack in Fotokol
13 people were killed and seven wounded in Cameroon’s first ever suicide bombing in the town of Fotokol. According to a statement from the Presidency, the dead included 10 civilians, a Chadian soldier and the two female suicide bombers. The wounded included three Cameroonian and four Chadian soldiers.
Fotokol is on the highway linking Nigeria to Chad and has been the target of repeated Boko Haram attacks. It was the scene of Boko Haram’s deadliest attack on Cameroonian soil in February 2015, which officially left 91 dead (some sources claimed the death toll was as high as 400).
Click here (French) and here (English) for additional details about the Fotokol attack.
July 22, 2015: 13 Killed and 32 wounded in double suicide attack in Maroua
Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in two separate attacks in the Barmaré neighborhood and at the entrance of the main market in Maroua, capital of the Far North Region and headquarters of Cameroon’s MNJTF operations.
According to a statement from the Presidency, the attacks killed 13 people, including the two suicide bombers, and injured 32 others. However, Cameroon state television channel CRTV quoted the region's governor saying 17 people died (Reuters). The US government issued a statement condemning the attack.
Click here to view a special CRTV special report in French on the Maroua attack on YouTube.
July 25, 2015: Female suicide bomber kills 21 and injures 85 in Maroua
A female suicide bomber believed to be about 12 years old blew herself up in a bar in a densely populated residential neighborhood in Maroua killing 21 people and injuring at least 85.
According to Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), the bomb devastated the Pont Vert neighborhood which is a generally crowded area with bars, restaurants and roadside vendors. Most of the victims were businessmen and women or people who were having drinks in the bars after the day's work. According to the government-owned Cameroon Tribune, the blast struck people within a 50-meter radius causing widespread devastation.
September 3, 2015: Twin suicide attacks in Kerawa kill “about 20” and injure 145
Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the town of Kerawa. The Minister of Communications revealed that the bombing killed “about 20” people and injured 145. This was the only attack for which the government did not give a specific casualty count. CNN however, put the death toll at 30, while the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, claimed that the final death toll was 42.
September 13, 2015: Twin suicide bombings kill nine and injure 24 in Kolofata
Nine people, including two suicide bombers, were killed in Kolofata. According to Cameroon Tribune, the dead included Dogo Ngonda, a member of the local vigilance committee whose quick thinking prevented the bombers from getting to a more crowded location and wreaking more havoc in the process. When Ngonda saw the two suspicious looking teenage boys, he stopped them for questioning. One of the boys detonated his explosive killing them both, while the second fled. He would later blow himself up and five others. A seventh person died on the way to the hospital.
Click here to watch a four-minute Getty Images report on how vigilance committees operate in the Far North.
September 20, 2015: Twin suicide bombing kills five in Mora
Five people were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Mora. The dead included Police Inspector Elie Ladé, two female suicide bombers who detonated themselves, and their guide. According to a military source, "It happened not far from the town stadium when the police officer who was killed attempted to carry out a routine check of the teenage bombers [and their guide]."
According to the official version from Cameroon Tribune, the first bomber detonated her bomb as Inspector Ladé attempted to search her, killing both of them and the guide. The second bomber ran off into the nearby fields where she detonated her bomb killing herself and a farmer. Two presidential decrees posthumously promoted inspector Ladé, first to the rank of Officier de Police de 1er grade, and then to the rank of Officier de Police de 2e grade.
Click here for a biography of inspector Elie Ladé (French).
September 22, 2015: Two Suicide Bombers blow themselves up in failed attack in Gouzoudou
Two women suicide bombers blew themselves up in Gouzoudou after their attack was thwarted by the local vigilance committee and security forces. According to the Minister of Communication, cited by CRTV, the two female bombers were forced to blow themselves up after being identified by vigilance committee members who immediately alerted security forces. The attackers fled and set off their bombs as security officers approached them, killing themselves and injuring three vigilance committee members (Ousenau Blana, Alhadji Boukar and Blama Gomi).
A source cited by AFP revealed that “The two suicide bombers clearly planned to blow themselves up on Monday, which is market day in the village, but it had been secured by security forces” and that unable to target a crowded market, the pair chose instead to “hide out” before setting off their bombs at dawn.
October 11, 2015: Two suicide attcks kill 11 and injure 29 in Kangaleri
Two female suicide bombers blew up themselves in the town Kangaleri, close to Mora, killing themselves and nine others, and wounding 29. The first female suicide bomber detonated her bomb in a tiny milk and donut restaurant while the second suicide bomber killed only herself.
During a press conference following the attacks, the government spokesperson praised the role of local vigilance committees in thwarting Boko Haram attacks. He called for the creation of more vigilance committees across the region.
November 9, 2015: Five killed and 20 injured in Fotokol suicide bombing
A teenage suicide bomber blew herself up at a mosque in Fotokol killing four people and injuring 20. According to CRTV, the young female suicide bomber was intercepted by a member of a local vigilance committee and in the course of her interrogation, she detonated her bomb killing the vigilante, three civilians and herself. Security forces quickly deployed and stopped the second suicide bomber before she could detonate her explosive device.
In a statement after the attack, the Minister of Communication once again highlighted the efforts of local vigilante groups in the Far North region.
November 21, 2015: Nine die in quadruple suicide bombings in Nigué
Four teenage suicide bombers killed themselves and a family of five when they were stopped by vigilance committee members in Nigué, a villages situated some three kilometers from the town on Fotokol town. According to the government spokesperson,
When a member of a local vigilante committee attempted to stop them, one blew herself up, killing five members of a family. On hearing the explosion, soldiers fired into the air to frighten [any attackers]. The three others panicked and detonated explosives tied round their bodies, but they only killed themselves.
Click here for additional details of the attack (French).
Nigué once again highlighted the critical role of vigilance committees in staving off and/or reducing the casualty toll of suicide attacks in the region; a role that the government of Cameroon publicly acknowledged.
Click here and here for more on more on the valiant role of vigilance committees in the fight against Boko Haram suicide bombers.
November 28, 2015: Twin suicide bombings kill eight in Dabanga
Two female suicide bombers killed six people and themselves in a suicide attack near a military base in Dabanga. According to CRTV, the first bomber exploded her suicide vest close to soldiers who had been alerted beforehand by local vigilance committee members, killing herself and wounding a soldier who later died in a hospital. The second killed a family of five who were having dinner.
Just as in Nigué a few days earlier, the actions of the local vigilance committee prevented a much higher death toll. It was a vigilance committee member, Isseini Abdouraman, who provided real-time information to security forces, leading to their timely intervention which forced the bombers to blow themselves up prematurely. On December 1, 2015 the Governor of the Far North region decorated Abdouraman and three other vigilance committee members killed by Boko Haram with the National Order of Merit.
December 1, 2015: Nine killed in double suicide bombing in Waza
Nine individuals, including three suicide bombers, were killed in a double suicide bombing in Waza.
According to CRTV, the attackers detonated their explosives in the homes of their victims after knocking at the door, pretending to be relatives. Two of the suicide bombers exploded themselves killing themselves and civilians, while the third attacker was shot dead by security forces.
December 11, 2015: At least eight killed and 22 wounded in suicide bomb attack in Kolofata
A suicide bomber detonated his bomb close to the chief’s palace killing seven including himself. An eighth victim later died from his injuries. According to Cameroon Tribune, a second bomber dropped his explosive belt and fled the scene after being spotted by vigilance committee members. CRTV,however, stated that the bomber blew himself up after being chased by security forces and vigilance committee members.
December 14, 2015: Two suicide bombers killed in failed attack in Kolofata
A statement by the government spokesperson said that the would-be-bombers tried to escape after they were intercepted by a member of the local vigilance committee. He struck one of the bombers with a bow and arrow who then detonated her explosive belt killing only herself. Security forces also cornered and killed the second bomber before she could detonate her explosive belt which was recuperated by the security forces.
December 23, 2015: Three killed and three wounded in a suicide attack in Kaliari
According to CRTV, the suicide bomber killed at least two people and wounded three others in Kaliari. According to one report, the suicide bomber blew herself up, killing the baby she was carrying on her back and a member of the local vigilance committee member who tried to stopped her as she was moving towards a crowd.
December 27, 2015: Suicide bomber dies in failed attack in Tolkomari
A suicide bomber died after setting off an explosive device in Tolkomari. According to the bi-weekly L'oeil du Sahel, two people were injured in the blast. According to the governor of the Far North region, this was another attack that was foiled thanks to the vigilance of the local population.
December 28, 2015: Two female suicide bombers die in failed attack in Bodo
Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up in Bodo. Cameroon Tribune reports that five people were slightly injured, one of them, a member of the local vigilance committee.
According to a local official, "The suicide bombing took place at the entrance of Bodo. Two women bombers wanted to get to the market place but they were stopped by vigilantes." Xinhua news agency provided additional details, revealing that the two bombers were spotted by villagers early Monday morning and that they detonated their explosives while fleeing from members of the vigilance committee.
December 29, 2015: Two female suicide bombers blow themselves up and injure 13 in Achigachia
According Cameroon Tribune, the attackers, who came from the sister town of Achigachia on the Nigerian side of the border, headed directly to the mosque where prayers had just ended. They detonated their explosives killing themselves and injuring 27 others. A local official is quoted as saying that the worst was avoided thanks to unspecified actions of the local vigilance committee.
Next: Roll Call of Infamy (2): Major Boko Haram Attack in Cameroon in 2015