Twin suicide bombings in Maroua, northern Cameroon, yesterday, are part of a growing pattern of armed groups such as Boko Haram targeting civilians as the regional conflict grows ever more dangerous, said Amnesty International today.
The attacks, in which at least 13 people were killed and 30 injured, is the third large-scale attack against Cameroonian civilians this month. More than 50 civilians have been killed in the last three weeks, following months of relative calm in the region.
“It is deeply worrying that we are now seeing such a sharp increase in attacks, and the use of tactics such as suicide bombs deliberately and indiscriminately targeting civilians shows a total disregard for human life,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International Central Africa Researcher, who recently returned from a research mission in Maroua.
“Those behind these recent attacks should be identified and brought to justice, and the Cameroonian security forces should use all lawful and necessary means to protect the civilian population from Boko Haram, while upholding human rights standards.”
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but Boko Haram has undertaken numerous attacks in the area over the last 18 months. It is the first time that Maroua, the capital of the far north of the country, has been attacked.
Two young women identified as suicide bombers detonated explosives on 22 July simultaneously in a crowded market of Maroua, and in another area of the city known as Barmare. Yesterday’s attacks came despite increased security measures in the town over the last few weeks, following a renewal in attacks elsewhere in the Far North region.
An eyewitness who fled the market after the explosion told Amnesty International that he saw the bodies of victims “burned beyond recognition or reduced to pieces”. The market is now closed and Cameroonian security forces have sealed off the area to conduct security operations.
“Many people in Maroua prefer to stay home fearing new attacks,” said another eyewitness.
On 10 July 2015, 15 civilians were killed in attacks on Fotokol, which included the first suicide attack in Cameroon. On 19 July, Boko Haram fighters stormed the border village of Kamouna, razed it almost to the ground and killed 23 people, including nine children. The last large-scale attack before July was in the town of Bia, on 17 April 2015, in which Boko Haram fighters killed at least 16 civilians, including two children.