Soldiers from Chad patrol at the border between Nigeria and Cameroon, part of a military contingent battling the Islamist group Boko Haram
Yaoundé (AFP) - A suicide bombing by a Boko Haram jihadist has killed 11 people in northern Cameroon, a provincial governor said Thursday, warning civilians not to breach special security measures aimed at preventing such attacks.
It was the latest in a spate of raids blamed on the Nigeria-based Islamist militant group in the area, which have driven tens of thousands of people from their homes.
A security source said the attacker blew himself up in the town of Djakana near the Nigerian border overnight.
"Seven people were killed immediately, including the bomber," the source said, adding that most of the victims were members of a local vigilante group tasked with hunting down Boko Haram fighters.
"They were gathered in a video room when the attacker entered and triggered his explosives," the security source said.
Midjiyawa Bakari, the governor of the region, told AFP that 11 people had died and four had been wounded.
Bakari slammed "the imprudence of the youths running the video club," adding: "While such activities are forbidden, they take risks in showing films at night in the bush...
"We are asking on the local population to wait until we give the go-ahead for the resumption of such activities, especially on the frontline," he said, referring to security measures put in place in the area in the wake of Boko Haram raids.
- 'Total disregard for life' -
Amnesty International's West and Central Africa director Alioune Tine said the "horrific suicide bombing... demonstrates once again Boko Haram's total disregard for human life".
"The Cameroonian security forces should take all lawful and necessary measures to protect civilians from such attacks, while ensuring respect for human rights," he added.
Boko Haram's seven-year insurgency has left at least 20,000 people dead in Nigeria and border areas of neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, and made more than 2.6 million homeless.
Some 2,000 Chadian soldiers are set to launch a counter-offensive against the group in the region, as part of a fightback by the four countries targeted by the group.
Boko Haram has regularly used women and children to stage suicide bombings, targeting mosques, markets, bus stations and checkpoints.
But the overnight attack comes after a lull in violence in this border zone near Nigeria.
- 'Silent crisis' -
The UN humanitarian coordinator for Cameroon warned this month that unabated attacks by the jihadists had sparked food insecurity and driven 190,000 people from their homes thereby creating a fertile ground for recruitment by Boko Haram.
Najat Rochdi had told AFP in an interview that Boko Haram members were attacking villages and food supply routes as well as burning homes and fields across northern Cameroon on a daily basis.
She said that in the last six months alone, the number of Cameroonians displaced within their own country had jumped from 60,000 to 190,000.
In addition, Cameroon is hosting 60,000 refugees from Nigeria and another 312,000 from the Central African Republic, amounting to more than 500,000 displaced people in all.
The number at risk of going hungry has soared from 900,000 to 2.4 million since January.
"It is a kind of silent crisis, which is really the danger," Rochdi said, warning that if humanitarian needs are not addressed in Cameroon, "we will see a radicalisation" of young people in the country.
"If people are not left with some hope, the only alternative for them is Boko Haram," she cautioned.
There is a gaping budgetary gap with only 30 percent of the requested $280 million (248-million-euro) humanitarian aid budget for Cameroon this year funded so far.
According to the UN, some 250 children recruited or abducted by Boko Haram in Cameroon have meanwhile managed to escape over the past nine months, according to the UN.
Some of them were girls who had been raped daily.