Boko Haram: Cameroon army frees 24 after mass abduction

Dozens of people, mostly children, were kidnapped as Islamist militants crossed border into Cameroon

Abubakar Shekau of Boko Haram

Around a third of the hostages kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram militants this weekend have been rescued by Cameroon's army.

About 80 people, the majority of them aged between 10 and 15 years old, were abducted and at least three others were killed in Cameroon after militants crossed the border from Nigeria.

It was one of the largest kidnappings on Cameroonian soil since Boko Haram began expanding its operations zone across the border last year.

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Today, a defence ministry spokesman announced: "The Cameroon army was able to free about 24 hostages taken yesterday by Boko Haram in the far north. They were freed as defence forces pursued the attackers who were heading back to Nigeria."

The village of Mabass was among several villages to be raided along the border yesterday. Soldiers reportedly intervened, exchanging fire with the militants for around two hours.

"According to our initial information, around 30 adults, most of them herders, and 50 young girls and boys aged between 10 and 15 years were abducted," one official told Reuters earlier.

A government spokesman confirmed the attack, but said he could not yet be certain about numbers. He added that almost 80 homes had been destroyed.

The raid comes as Chadian soldiers, tanks and armoured vehicles arrived over the weekend to help Cameroon fight off the jihadists.

Randy Joe Sa'ah, a BBC Africa correspondent, said Cameroon's "long and porous" border with Nigeria is "difficult to police" and the military is frustrated at not being allowed to chase the militants once they cross back into Nigeria.

With the arrival of Chadian soldiers, civilians hoped the countries would "come to a deal allowing their armed forces to cross borders so that the militants can be contained", says Sa'ah.

On Friday, Ghana's President John Mahama suggested that a multinational force might be considered to "deal permanently" with Boko Haram militants.

Attacks from the group, which kidnapped more than 200 teenage girls from a school in Chibok last April, are increasing in frequency as it tries to seize territory in Nigeria and beyond.

In an attack earlier this month a female suicide bomber, thought to be just ten years old, was blown up in a crowded market in northern Nigeria, killing at least 19 people.

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