Cameroon Creates, Trains Militias Against New Terrorism Ideology

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has sent his top military officials and a governor to reactivate old militias and create new ones to combat terrorism on the central African state’s northern border with Nigeria. The militias are, for the first time, to tell people about what the government says is a new strategy by the Islamic State in West Africa Province, or ISWAP, to attract supporters away from rival Boko Haram through gifts of food and money, and attacking only military positions, unlike Boko Haram, which attacked schools and other civilian targets.

About 30 people, most of them youths, sing in Mora that Boko Haram is a capricious terrorist group. The singers call for caution in all villages on Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria, where, they say, jihadist groups have relaunched activity.

Abdoul Oumar is coordinator of nine militia groups fighting Boko Haram terrorism in Mora, a town on the border with Nigeria’s Borno state. Nigeria says Borno is an epicenter of the jihadist group.

Oumar saif the number of jihadists infiltrating villages in Mora within the past three months is increasing.

Oumar said militias that were discouraged by the lack of flashlights, motorcycles, telephones, bows and arrows, and guns to fight terrorists will now be able to resume work. He said besides moving through the bush and hills to inform the military of suspicious activities, militias are now expected to teach people not to accept gifts from unknown visitors.

Oumar spoke Saturday, after receiving food, flashlights, motorcycles and an undisclosed amount of money from Cameroon’s President Paul Biya. He said the militias expect more food and financial assistance from the state.

Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of the Far North region, on the Nigerian border, led a delegation that included senior military officials to Mora. Bakari said Biya wants militias to be reactivated to stop terrorist incursions.

Bakari said since May, when Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was declared killed, the Islamic State in West Africa Province, or ISWAP, has been very active along the Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad border. Bakari said Cameroon’s militias should denounce jihadist groups and educate people to reject their teachings. He said if militias collaborate with government troops and state officials, the jihadists’ new modus operandi will be short-lived.

Bakari promised more government support but did not say when the support would be given. He promised to visit all border towns to reactivate militias.

In January, Cameroon’s military said many militias complained of lack of government support and stopped helping government troops. Bakari said militias thought Boko Haram had been defeated.

Joseph Beti Assomo is Cameroon’s minister of defense.

He said the war Cameroon launched against Boko Haram in 2014 is now taking a new dimension with jihadists disguising themselves as charity groups. He said he is inviting all civilians along Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria to denounce strangers preaching peace and reconciliation. He said jihadists in general are infiltrating into villages pretending to be peacemakers and recruiting followers.

Assomo said it is not known how many jihadist groups are operating along the border. He said the jihadists have reduced attacks on civilians and only target military installations and government officials. He said there may be other new jihadist groups created after the death of Shekaou, but did not name any of the jihadist besides ISWAP.

The Cameroon military says that since May, more than nine jihadist attacks have been reported on its troops’ positions. At least 25 troops and 13 civilians have been killed since May.

Boko Haram terrorists have been fighting to establish an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria’s northeast. The fighting extended to Cameroon, Niger and Chad in 2013.

30,000 people have been killed and 1.8 million displaced according to the United Nations.

Assomo said civilians should report all strangers in their towns and villages to the military.

Source: Voice of America