Officials in Cameroon say Boko Haram militants appear to be changing their tactics and attacking only military and government targets in an effort to try to attract more recruits.
This week, Cameroonian Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo a military hospital in Maroua about 80 kilometers from Nigeria’s Borno state, where 14 government troops and four civilians are recovering after Boko Haram attacks over five days on the northern border with Nigeria.
Assomo said Cameroonians and President Paul Biya share the grief of family members of 14 soldiers killed by the jihadists.
Among the wounded soldiers is 37-year-old Lieutenant Innocent Beti who was shot in his abdomen when Boko Haram attacked the village of Sagme. He said if he recovers and is given another chance, he will not hesitate to fight the terrorists.
Cameroon’s military said it has recorded at least seven Boko Haram incursions on its territory during July. The Boko Haram forces targeted military positions and public buildings in the border towns of Mozogo, Fotokol, Amchide and Achigachia.
Assomo said the deadliest attacks were in the villages of Sagme and Zigi.
The defense minister says unlike previous years, the terrorist group has avoided attacks on civilians, markets, religious institutions and schools.
He said the military should immediately examine and adequately respond to the new wave of threats posed by Boko Haram.
Assomo said more troops have been deployed to the border area, but did not say how many. He asked civilians to help the military by reporting strangers in their towns and villages, and by creating their own militias.
Saibou Issa, a conflict resolution specialist at the University of Maroua, believes Boko Haram is trying to gain the trust of civilians.
He said the new wave of attacks indicates Boko Haram fighters now share the ideology of the jihadist splinter Islamic State West Africa Province, which appears to be gaining control over Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad border localities. Issa said that group attacks military positions and government officials to gain sympathy and recruit civilians.
Issa also said poverty in the Lake Chad Basin is pushing many young men to join the terror group, where they expect to be paid for killing government troops. He said it’s possible that former fighters who were unhappy that Boko Haram attacked civilians may now rejoin the group.
Cameroon is pleading with its citizens not to join the jihadist group, which the government says only brings pain and sufferings. Boko Haram violence that started 12 years ago has cost the lives of 30,000 people and displaced about 2 million in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, according to the United Nations.