Suspected Boko Haram rebels from Nigeria have attacked a Chinese work site in northern Cameroon, killing at least one Cameroonian soldier, officials and state media reported, adding that 10 Chinese workers were missing and were believed to have been abducted.
The Chinese embassy in Yaounde confirmed the attack on Friday at a site near the town on Waza, 20km from the Nigerian border close to the Sambisa forest, a Boko Haram stronghold.
Chinese embassy political counsellor Lu Qingjiang said one Chinese worker was injured in the attack and 10 were missing, China’s Xinhua state news agency reported.
Ten vehicles belonging to China’s state-run construction company Sinohydro, which is repairing roads in Cameroon, were also taken in the attack, Xinhua said.
Lu called on the Cameroonian authorities to “not put the lives of Chinese nationals missing in danger in case actions of liberation be launched”, Xinhua said.
The Islamist group kidnapped more than 200 girls from a school on the Nigerian side of the border last month and Nigerian troops backed by foreign units are searching the area around the forest for them.
Friday’s incident began when power was cut in the evening. A five-hour gunfight followed, a guard at the Waza National Park told Reuters.
“Some of us decided to hide in the forest with the animals,” the guard said, requesting anonymity.
The governor of Cameroon’s Far North Region, Augustine Fonka Awa, said earlier he believed Boko Haram carried out the attack.
Cameroon state radio said in a report from the region that a Cameroon special forces soldier was killed. It said four others including two soldiers were seriously wounded.
As well as at least 10 vehicles, the rebels took a container of explosives belonging to the Chinese company, it said.
In a meeting in Paris on Saturday to improve co-operation in the fight against Boko Haram and other militant groups, France’s President Francois Hollande said it was becoming a threat to all of West and Central Africa
Boko Haram has staged several attacks in north Cameroon during its five-year fight to set up an Islamist state. Last month, it attacked a police post killing two people. The rebels kidnapped a French family in February 2013.
Sinhohydro’s vice-general manager, Lan Ronghe, was quoted by Xinhua as saying the man wounded in the attacks was shot twice, in the shoulder and the abdomen, in the attack on his camp near the Waza park, Xinhua said, citing Lan.
The Chinese embassy suspended visits to the area.
“For companies operating in the northern part of Cameroon in particular, they should instantly start security contingency plans,” the embassy said in a statement.
At least two Chinese enterprises operate in the region. Xinhua said an engineering unit of Sinohydro operated the camp.
Yan Chang Logone Development Holding Company, a subsidiary of China’s Yanchang Petroleum, is exploring for oil.
A Western problem
Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, who is attending the Paris summit, said Boko Haram was becoming not only a regional problem, but also a Western one. Two Italian priests and a Canadian nun were kidnapped in April.
“They have committed one more attack. They attacked businessmen and this comes after the French hostages were kidnapped. As we speak, we are searching for the Italian priests and Canadian nun,” Biya said.
Nigerian authorities say Cameroon has not done enough to secure its border because Boko Haram has been using the sparsely populated Far North Region as a transit route for weapons and as a base for attacks in northeastern Nigeria.
Cameroon said in March it would send 700 soldiers to the border as part of regional efforts to tackle the armed group.
Outrage over the kidnapping of the schoolgirls has prompted Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, criticised at home for his government’s slow response, to accept US, British and French intelligence help in the hunt for the girls. – Reuters