Following a similar initiative covering the entirety of Chad, the nation of Cameroon has imposed a ban on the Islamic burqa in the nation’s northern territories, which have been the target of repeated attacks by Boko Haram jihadists, who often use the burqa to disguise explosives.
On Wednesday, two women dressed in burqas attacked the town of Fotokol, Cameroon, in the nation’s north. The suicide attack left at least 13 dead, and continues a long-standing Boko Haram pattern of using women and children as suicide bombers. It also highlights Boko Haram’s use of the burqa to sneak explosives, unperceived, into target areas. In response, Cameroon has made wearing the Islamic garment illegal in the Far North region.
Cameroonian government officials confirmed that the dead included ten civilians, one Chadian soldier, and the two suicide bombers. Fotokol lies on the border between Cameroon and Chad. The attackers had waited for the civilians to congregate to celebrate the breaking of the Ramadan fast for the evening.
The burqa ban followed numerous similar instances of suicide bombings. “I took this measure because of the security situation prevailing in the region,” said Far North Governor Midjiyawa Bakari. Bakari has also banned “large groups” of Muslims from assembling without a special permit from the government. The number of people the government will consider a “large group,” as opposed to a small congregation, is not clear.
Chad has also banned the burqa, although nationally and not regionally, after Boko Haram used the garment to hide a bomb for an attack in N’Djamena, the nation’s capital. That attack, in June, was the first such terrorist attack in the capital; Chad had only experienced retribution from the terrorist group for joining a military coalition against them on the border with Nigeria, the native country of the jihadist group. Chad banned both burqas and “religious turbans,” forcing all store owners to burn their entire inventory of banned clothing. Chad became the third nation to ban the garment throughout their territory, following France and the Republic of Congo.
While officials had enforced the ban on burqas strictly on storefronts, police had been more lax with women wearing the garments in public, hoping for an eventual phasing out of the product. The result was a bombing on Monday, in which a man dressed in a burqa blew himself up in N’Djamena, killing 15 people.
Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and has renamed itself the Islamic State West Africa Province, has escalated the number of attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger since the election of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in May.