About 30 hostages abducted in Cameroon over the weekend by members of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram have been released, Cameroon’s military said Monday.
Military spokesman Col. Didier Badjeck said some of the more than 60 hostages taken had escaped, while others were freed after a gun fight between Boko Haram and the military. The extremists used some of the hostages as human shields, he said, adding that he did not know how many people were killed in the battles.
Boko Haram attacked Mabass village, in the Far North region of Cameroon, early Sunday and staged its largest kidnapping yet in Cameroon, according to the government. Information Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary said that 80 houses were destroyed in the attack and between 30 and 50 people were believed to have been abducted. The military spokesman Monday said it was over 60 people.
The attacks in Nigeria and Cameroon highlight the growing regional threat posed by Boko Haram. The militant group seeks to impose Islamic Shariah law in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation at about 170 million. The group has occupied villages on about 250 kilometers of the border between Cameroon and Nigeria.
Sunday’s attack occurred days after Cameroon President Paul Biya announced Chad would send “an important contingent” to support Cameroon’s army as it tries to repel the extremists’ intensifying offensive. Chadian troops began arriving Sunday in Cameroon, heading to the north, according to the information minister.
Biya had also called for international help to fight the terrorists. Boko Haram has been recruiting fighters in Cameroon, Chad and Niger, and the group recently issued a video threatening Biya.