Boko Haram fighters have reportedly killed at least 70 people in a cross-border raid on the northern Cameroonian town of Fotokol, a state security official said Wednesday.
An unidentified local security source told the AFP the Sunni Muslim militant group attacked residents of the town — which straddles Cameroon's border with Nigeria — in their homes and at a mosque.
"Boko Haram inflicted so much damage here this morning," Umar Babakalli, a Fotokol resident, told the agency by phone. "They have killed dozens of people."
VICE News was not immediately able to confirm the number of casualties. A local official told Reuters that more than 100 had been killed, while it is not yet known how many insurgents died in the attack.
The militants were eventually pushed back by Cameroon forces backed by Chadian fighters sent to the area as part of a regional coalition. French daily Le Monde reported that the fighting had stopped by mid-morning.
The assault comes as neighboring countries join forces and ramp up efforts to battle the group, which has waged a brutal insurgency in the region for six years. Boko Haram has kidnapped and killed thousands of local residents in dozens of attacks on regional towns and villages in that time, especially in northeast Nigeria, where the group declared an Islamic caliphate in August.
Wednesday's raid was also conducted a day after Chadian troops entered Nigeria to try and break Boko Haram's grip on the border town of Gamboru. Some 2,000 Chadian ground troops reportedly marched into the town and claimed to kill more than 200 Boko Haram fighters, while some militants managed to escape. Nine Chadian troops also died in Tuesday's offensive, according to local media.
Earlier last month, the insurgents carried out what rights groups have described as the "deadliest massacre" in the group's history near the Nigerian town of Baga, close to the Chadian border. Local reports estimated as many as 2,000 civilians were killed in the attack, leading US Secretary of State John Kerry to declare the incident a "crime against humanity."
In late January, representatives from Cameroon and Nigeria joined members of 54 African countries in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa for the annual African Union (AU) summit.
Officials unanimously agreed at the conference on January 30 to form a multinational 7,500-strong force to combat Boko Haram, amid mounting regional safety fears in the lead-up to Nigeria's presidential ballot on February 14. The AU also announced plans to send more than 50 observers to Nigeria during the election.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is currently seeking a second term in office and missed the AU summit to go on the campaign trail. On Monday, Jonathan narrowly escaped a suicide bomb blast after addressing supporters at a campaign rally in the northeastern Nigerian city of Gombe. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack, which was conducted in an area where Boko Haram has struck several times.
Follow Pierre Longeray on Twitter: @PLongeray