a new report by Amnesty International has said.
The report, published on Tuesday, said at least 381 civilians have been killed by Boko Haram since April 2017 in Cameroon and Nigeria, amid a spike in suicide bombings.
According to the London-based rights group, the sharp rise in the casualties has been driven by the Boko Haram’s increased use of suicide bombers – often women and girls, who were forced to carry explosives into crowded areas.
“Boko Haram is once again committing war crimes on a huge scale, exemplified by the depravity of forcing young girls to carry explosives with the sole intention of killing as many people as they possibly can,” said Mr Alioune Tine, the Amnesty International's Director for West and Central Africa.
Millions of civilians
“This wave of shocking Boko Haram violence, propelled by a sharp rise in suicide bombings, highlights the urgent need for protection and assistance for millions of civilians in the Lake Chad region. Governments in Nigeria, Cameroon and beyond must take swift action to protect them from this campaign of terror,” reads the report.
Amnesty said the Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria have killed at least 223 civilians since April, noting that the figure may be higher as some attacks may have gone unreported.
In Cameroon, it said, Boko Haram insurgents killed at least 158 civilians during same period – four times more than in the preceding five months.
“The recent spike in casualties has been driven by increased suicide attacks, with 30 – more than one per week – carried out since the beginning of April,” the London-based advocacy group said.
It said the deadliest Boko Haram attack in recent times took place at Waza in northern Cameroon on July 12, when a young girl was forced to carry and detonate a bomb in a crowded video game centre, leaving 16 civilians dead and 34 other people injured.
Amnesty suggested that the displacement of the Boko Haram fighters from the Sambisa Forest in Nigeria to the Mandara Mountains in Cameroon, following military operations, may explain the increase in attacks in Cameroon.
The Boko Haram launched its insurgency in 2009, aiming to create an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria, but have spread their terrorism to other countries of the Lake Chad Basin; namely Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
According to Amnesty, a total of 2.3 million people have been displaced across the region—including 1.6 million internally displaced and refugees in Nigeria, and 303,000 in Cameroon. Another 374,000 are displaced in Chad and Niger.
More than seven million people across the region face serious food shortages, including five million in Nigeria and 1.5 million in Cameroon. There were 515,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, more than 85 per cent of them in Nigeria according to the Amnesty report.
“Governments across the Lake Chad region must increase their efforts to protect the hundreds of thousands of civilians at grave risk of being targeted by Boko Haram violence, abductions and abuses,” said Mr Tine.
“Meanwhile, the international community should also rapidly scale up its commitment to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to the millions in the region who need it.”