MORA, CAMEROON: At first, the attack had all the hallmarks of a typical Boko Haram assault. Armed fighters stormed a town on the border with Nigeria, shooting every man they saw.
But this time, instead of burning homes and abducting hostages, the fighters gathered cows, goats and any kind of food they could round up, then fled with it all.
Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group terrorizing this part of the world, is on the hunt – for food.
After rampaging across the region for years, forcing more than 2 million people to flee their homes and farms, Boko Haram appears to be falling victim to a major food crisis of its own creation.
Farmers have fled, leaving behind fallow fields. Herdsmen have rerouted cattle drives to avoid the violence. Throughout the region, entire villages have emptied, leaving a string of ghost towns with few people for Boko Harm to dominate – and little for the group to plunder.
“They need food. They need to eat,” Midjiyawa Bakari, the governor of the Far North region of Cameroon, said of Boko Haram. “They’re stealing everything.”
Across parts of northeastern Nigeria and border regions like the Far North, trade has come to a halt and tens of thousands of people are on the brink of famine, U.N. officials say. Markets have shut down because vendors have nothing to sell, and even if they did, many buyers have been scared off by the suicide bombers Boko Haram sends into crowds.
The hunt for food appears to be part of what is pushing Boko Haram deeper into Cameroon, according to a U.S. State Department review of attacks in the first few weeks of this year.
“They started shooting, shooting, shooting,” said Matte Bama, recounting the night Boko Haram raided her town, Amchide. Now she shares a house with 23 others, wondering when she can return home. “They took our livestock,” she said. “They took everything and they left.”
Such attacks are becoming increasingly common in the areas bordering Boko Haram’s base in northeastern Nigeria. A military campaign by Nigeria and its neighbors has chased fighters from villages they once controlled. Now, officials contend, the militants are left to scrounge for food in the sparse Sambisa Forest during the dry season, or go out raiding for whatever they can find.
“Their supply routes are blocked,” said Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, a Nigerian military spokesman. “They’re hungry.”
This week, dozens of emaciated Boko Haram fighters, along with captive women and children, surrendered to military officials in Nigeria, a situation the authorities expect to repeat itself in coming weeks.
“They have nowhere to go,” Abubakar said.
By early February, Boko Haram was estimated to have stolen at least 4,200 head of cattle in Cameroon. In one attack in early January, the militants descended on a town in Cameroon and took dozens of bicycles, wheelbarrows, and 150 small animals like sheep and goats – and then kidnapped six people to help lead the animals back into Nigeria, according to the State Department review.
Boko Haram has also taken hostages and forced them to raid cattle from other villages, it said.
But while some elements of Boko Haram may be battered, fighters still manage to carry out devastating attacks, the results of which are on full display at the hospital in Maroua, the capital of the Far North. Shrapnel and burn victims from recent attacks across various towns recuperate together. One young woman lay in a coma, her hair arranged in perfect skinny braids.
For More: http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/boko-haram-falls-victim-to-a-food-crisis-it-created-1284166?pfrom=home-world
Source: Islamic News Daily