Cameroon repels cross-border Boko Haram attack on army base

Yaoundé (AFP) - Cameroon's army repelled a cross-border attack by Boko Haram Islamists on a military base Monday, a military source said, amid fears the group is expanding its insurgency beyond Nigeria's borders.

"A group of Boko Haram fighter attacked Kolofata (in the far northwest of Cameroon) this morning. They specifically targeted the military base in the town," a police source said.

"The fighting was intense, but they were pushed back. We inflicted casualties upon them, there were none on our side," an army official told AFP.

A local source said that residents fled the city "as soon as people heard the first gunfire" in the town, which also houses police, elite army and local government premises.

No casualty figures were given.

Meanwhile, a resident of the Nigerian town of Baga, which the militants seized on January 3, said he saw "corpses everywhere" more than a week after the attack.

"They have set up barricades in strategic locations in the town. There are corpses everywhere. The whole town smells of decomposing bodies," Borye Kime, who fled the attack to Chad but returned briefly Monday to collect some possessions, told AFP.

Local officials have cited huge numbers of dead in the attack on the town on the shores of Lake Chad in Borno state. There was no possibility of immediately confirming the figures.

Nigeria's military has said the Baga attack could be "the deadliest" yet by Boko Haram.

On Friday, Mike Omeri, a government spokesman on national security, said troops were "actively pursuing" the rebels.

But Kime said he did not see any troops.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has been fiercely criticised for his failure to beat back Boko Haram, whose territorial gains have led to fears of a total collapse of government control in the north-east.

Boko Haram has seized dozens of towns and villages in northeast Nigeria in the last six months and now reportedly controls large parts of Borno state, which borders Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

More than 13,000 people have died since the group, whose name translates loosely as "Western education is forbidden" launched its insurgency in 2009.

The attack on Kolofata comes after the group's leader Abubakar Shekau vowed last week in a YouTube message to hit back at Cameroon for sending warplanes into action against the fighters in December after they seized a military camp.

Monday's offensive was the first by Boko Haram on the town since the army's elite Rapid Intervention Battalion was deployed to defend the area after several attacks in 2014.

Several people were killed in an attack on Kolofata in July and 27 people, including the wife of a deputy prime minister, were held hostage for several weeks by the Islamists.

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