Cameroon's military killed at least 41 Boko Haram fighters in airstrikes following a wave of attacks from the armed group along the country’s border with Nigeria over the weekend, the government said on Monday.
At least 34 fighters died after the army struck a base used by Boko Haram in Chogori. Seven more were killed along with a soldier near the town of Waza, Information Minister Issa Tchiroma said.
The counteroffensive followed a coordinated assault by Boko Haram on five towns and villages in northern Cameroon over the weekend, demonstrating a change in tactics by the armed group, which has focused on hit-and-run raids on individual settlements in the past, Tchiroma added.
"Units of the [Boko Haram] group attacked Makari, Amchide, Limani and Achigachia in a change of strategy which consists of distracting Cameroonian troops on different fronts, making them more vulnerable in the face of the mobility and unpredictability of their attacks," Tchiroma said late on Sunday.
Boko Haram fighters briefly occupied an army camp in Achigachia after a fierce fight, but withdrew after air attacks, army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Didier Badjeck told Reuters by phone. All the fighters had now pulled back into Nigeria, Badjeck said. Both Tchiroma and Badjeck said it was too early to give full details of casualties.
Boko Haram's campaign to carve out a separatist state in Nigeria has spread from its stronghold in northeast Nigeria to neighboring Cameroon, raising fears for an already unstable region also threatened by armed groups in the Sahel.
Cameroon has sent thousands of soldiers to its far north region to fight off Boko Haram and said it launched air attacks on the movement for the first time on Sunday. Boko Haram has killed more than 40 soldiers and recruited hundreds of youths during raids in Cameroon's Far North region this year.
Al Jazeera and wire services