Two women detonated explosives at a busy market in northern Cameroon late Wednesday, killing at least 12 people and wounding many more, according to government officials. The twin blasts, which roiled the town of Waza near the country’s border with Nigeria, hit a neighborhood ringed with restaurants and retail shops.
“The town has been sealed off,” a local official told the news agency AFP. “Nobody can enter and nobody can leave.”
The official added that among the injured, several were in “quite serious” condition, raising the possibility the death toll could still rise.
No organization has immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings — though NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton notes it bears the hallmarks of Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group born in Nigeria.
“After months of relative calm,” Ofeibea notes, “Cameroon’s Far North region, bordering neighboring Nigeria, has witnessed a resurgence in attacks by suspected Boko Haram insurgents.”
She adds: “Extremist violence has spilled over Nigeria’s borders into Cameroon, Niger and Chad, driving millions of people from their homes across a huge region known as the Lake Chad basin. The neighbors have joined forces in a regional multinational military operation to try to subdue Boko Haram.”
Yet the group continues to carry out suicide bombing attacks in the region — increasingly turning to young women and children as attackers. As NPR’s Merrit Kennedy reported earlier this year, UNICEF believes Boko Haram has used at least 117 children in suicide attacks, 80 percent of whom were girls.
And that number only showed signs of growing in the early months of the year.
“The insurgency has changed its tactics over the course of the conflict, from holding towns and territory to a guerrilla-style insurgency that uses hit and run attacks and improvised explosive devices,” UNICEF said in its report.