Cameroon and Chad government troops free scores of hostages 0

Troops from Chad and Cameroon have freed scores of civilians who were kidnapped for ransom or to fight with jihadist groups on both sides of the two central African states’ border.

Military officials from both countries say the number of civilian kidnappings has increased along the border, with several hundred people still in captivity.

Cameroon’s military said Tuesday it received five civilians — a 54-year-old man and four people between 17 and 24 years old — from Chadian government troops.

The five men, who were escorted to the office of the governor of Cameroon’s Far North region on Wednesday, were abducted this year from villages around Kousseri and Logone Birni, towns on the border with Chad, Cameroon government officials said.

Victor Boukar, one of the former hostages, said heavily armed men chained their legs every night and tied their hands with ropes during the day. He said they were tortured regularly and were given only one meal per day during their 70 days in captivity.

Boukar said captors regularly forced 35 captives, including seven women, to move to different localities on both sides of the Cameroon-Chad border to avoid government troops trying to rescue them.

Hostages whose families paid a ransom were abandoned in the bush, he said, adding that armed men have representatives who collect the ransom money in border towns and villages.

Last week, Chad said its troops launched attacks on border villages in Mayo Kebbi East and Mayo Kebbi West provinces where several hundred people were held hostage by armed gangs and jihadists. It said soldiers freed scores of civilians. Cameroonian nationals were returned to their home country, while Chadians were reunited with their families after receiving medical care.

Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of the Far North region, said Chad and Cameroon are reuniting to fight rebels and bring peace along their porous, 1,100-plus kilometer (680-mile) land border.

He said Cameroonian border troops will arrest or kill armed men and jihadists hiding in local towns and villages, and Cameroon is allowing Chadian troops to cross the border in hot pursuit of Boko Haram militants and armed gangs.

General Ahmat Kogri, a military adviser to Chad’s transitional president Mahamat Idriss Deby, told Chad’s state TV on Wednesday that Boko Haram militants have renewed attacks and abductions to acquire supplies, after their fire power was drastically reduced in battles with the Multinational Joint Task Force.

Kogri said forces fighting to restore peace have taken note that Boko Haram and its splinter jihadist groups are again attacking people and seizing goods. He said civilians should report all strangers in border towns and villages to government troops.

Boko Haram attacks began in Nigeria’s Borno state in 2009 and spread to Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

The United Nations says the Islamist insurgency has left more than 37,000 people dead, mainly in Nigeria, and displaced more than 3 million.

Source: VOA