By Josiane Kouagheu
DOUALA, Cameroon (Reuters) – Suicide bombers targeting a town in northern Cameroon killed 32 people and wounded 66 on Monday, one of the worst attacks yet in the Central African nation as it struggles to contain violence blamed on Nigeria’s Boko Haram.
State-owned radio and local officials said four explosions struck a busy market and entrances to the town of Bodo, which borders the Islamist insurgency’s strongholds in northeastern Nigeria, at around 10 a.m. (0900 GMT).
A local official, who said the death toll could rise further as a number of those take to hospital were in serious condition, said the attackers had slipped in under the cover of seasonal, dusty Harmattan winds.
“The Harmattan has been blowing for three days. … The vigilance committees weren’t able to see the suicide bombers, who entered the village in the middle of the night,” he said, asking not to be named.
While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, northern Cameroon has become the scene of increasingly frequent suicide attacks as Boko Haram has stepped up cross-border violence that has also spread into Chad and Niger.
Twelve people were killed in an attack on Jan. 13 at a mosque in the town of Kouyape.
Bodo, separated from Nigeria by only a small border river, was previously targeted at the end of December when two female suicide bombers blew themselves up at the town entrance.
Boko Haram has killed thousands of people and driven more than 2 million people from their homes during its six-year insurgency in one of the world’s poorest regions.
Regional armies mounted an offensive against the insurgents last year that ousted them from many positions in northern Nigeria.
Following that operation, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin pledged to set up an 8,700-strong regional force tasked with wiping out Boko Haram. The United States has also sent troops to supply intelligence and other assistance.
The establishment of the force has been plagued by delays, however, and joint operations have yet to begin, leaving it up to national armies to tackle Boko Haram individually.
In the absence of effective coordination, security sources have warned that can often mean that soldiers just drive the militants across one another’s borders.
(Writing by Makini Brice and Joe Bavier; Editing by Edward McAllister, Mark Heinrich and Peter Cooney)