YAUNDE – In its war against Nigeria-based Boko Haram, Cameroon must confront a danger that becomes evident only when it is too late: homemade landmines that have already claimed a hundred lives in the northern part of the country.
On Feb. 14, a pick-up truck carrying 12 soldiers from the Cameroonian army’s elite BIR unit was blown up by a Boko Haram landmine near the town of Kerawa.
One soldier was killed and the other 11 remain hospitalized, including one man who lost both legs in the blast.
Ironically, the soldiers were struck while on their way back from a mission to dismantle a Boko Haram bomb factory.
The BIR team destroyed four landmine workshops and seized five completed mines along with hundreds of containers holding explosives, batteries and detonators, a military source told EFE.
Such incidents are common in Cameroon’s far north. Two BIR troops died in October when their vehicle detonated a mine and a similar explosion a few days later left one soldier and six others wounded.
“Damage caused by these homemade mines is becoming ever more frequent,” Cameroonian analyst Guibai Gaitama told EFE. “The terrorists use them to mine roads, houses, vehicles. Everything.”
Though the Multinational Joint Task Force, comprising units from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, has disrupted Boko Haram supply lines in the area, the terrorists remain capable of manufacturing the makeshift bombs.
“The terrorists use local products like salt, fertilizer and powder, which they then pack into propane tanks, food cans and even empty shells from large-caliber bullets,” a Cameroonian officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.