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Boko Haram expands own 'caliphate' in Nigeria

YAOUNDE, Cameroon: Boko Haram militants have seized control of a Nigerian town after soldiers deployed there fled to take refuge across the border in nearby Cameroon, police and locals said on Tuesday.
“Boko Haram fighters moved into Ashigashya” unchallenged by law enforcement overnight Monday, where they slaughtered three people in front of a church, a Cameroon police source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Boko Haram has in recent weeks switched tactics from hit-and-run attacks to attempting to seize and hold territory and have proclaimed one captured town, Gwoza, as part of an “Islamic caliphate.”
Assessing how much territory the militants now hold is impossible but residents have said the Islamists now control at least one town in Yobe state — Buni Yadi — as well as Gwoza and Gamboru Ngala in neighboring Borno.
Nigeria’s military dismissed reports that almost 500 Nigerian soldiers fled the border cities of Ashigashyia and Kerawa over the weekend to take refuge from Boko Haram militants on Cameroonian territory. It claimed that the troops were “charging through the borders in a tactical maneuver” when they found themselves on Cameroonian soil.
But a Cameroonian police officer said security was “deteriorating day by day in the border towns” as even those charged with keeping the peace flee attacks by Boko Haram.
Straddling the border between Cameroon and Nigeria, Ashigashya is bisected by a small river which marks the border between the two countries.
The police source said Boko Haram is now trying to take the Cameroonian side of the city.
“Cameroonian gendarmes fled the brigade to sleep at school in the city. When they tried to return to the police this morning, they were greeted by fire from Boko Haram” from the Nigerian side, said the police officer.
A Cameroon police officer stationed in the far north town of Fotokol told AFP that the militants tried to destroy a bridge on the Nigerian border with Cameroon, which serves as the border crossing with Gamboru Ngala in Nigeria.
The militants stormed Gamboru Ngala early on Monday and by evening had taken over the police station, a military barracks and vocational training center, where they had based themselves, locals said.
Three children were reportedly injured by flying shrapnel when explosives were detonated, possibly by firing from the Cameroon side of the border, they added.
In Adamawa, which has also been under a state of emergency since May last year, a local government official said scores of gunmen stormed the town of Madagali on Saturday, forcing out soldiers and taking over government buildings.
Local government chairman Maina Ularamu said the insurgents advanced from Gwoza, some 23 kilometers (14 miles) away, and took several villages in between.
“Boko Haram are now in control of Madagali and many villages in the area which have been deserted by residents for fear of attack by the insurgents,” he added.
Troops were chased out of the town of Gulak, the administrative headquarters for the region some 20 kilometers away from Madagali.
The Islamists arrived from Gwoza via Liman Kara, where they took over a police training college last week, Ularamu said.
“For now they are not killing residents but people are living in fear considering the carnage they carried out in Gwoza, despite giving assurances to residents they were not going to harm them,” he said.
On Monday, six people were killed in the village of Kafin Hausa while a church was burnt down in Sabon Garin Hyanbula on Sunday.
“People have been sneaking out from Madagali to avoid possible attack by the Boko Haram gunmen,” Ularamu said.