The Boko Haram terrorist group has killed at least 80 civilians in escalating attacks in Cameroon’s Far North region since December 2020, an international watchdog said on Monday.
The terror group’s violence in Cameroon has forced over 322,000 people from their homes since 2014, including 12,500 since December, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
It said Boko Haram has looted hundreds of homes in the Far North region over recent months and called on the government to take concrete measures to protect vulnerable communities.
“Boko Haram is waging a war on the people of Cameroon at a shocking human cost,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior Africa researcher at HRW.
She said the Far North region was increasing “the epicenter of Boko Haram’s violence” and stressed the need for the government to “urgently adopt and carry out a new, rights-respecting strategy to protect civilians at risk.”
“According to a November 2020 report of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a United States Department of Defense think tank, the number of Boko Haram attacks against civilians in Cameroon in 2020 was higher than in Nigeria, Niger, and Chad combined,” read the HRW report.
The rights group also shared details gathered from witnesses of attacks in the region, including one in the town of Mozogo on Jan. 8 that killed at least 14 civilians, including eight children, and wounded three others, including two children.
“As fighters shot at residents and looted homes, a female suicide bomber infiltrated a group of fleeing civilians and then detonated her explosive vest,” the HRW quoted witnesses as saying.
‘Improve conduct of forces’
While stressing the need for the protection of civilians, the HRW also called for stricter monitoring of security forces to prevent rights abuses.
It said rights groups have documented widespread human rights violations and crimes under international humanitarian law by Cameroonian security forces deployed on operations in the Far North since 2014.
These included extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, incommunicado detention, systematic torture, and forced return of refugees, read the report.
“It is essential for Cameroon and the multinational force to improve the conduct of forces deployed to counter Boko Haram attacks and to ensure that allegations of human rights violations by its forces are investigated and prosecuted,” HRW said.