Boko Haram kidnaps at least 60 in deadly Cameroon attack

Maltam (Cameroon) (AFP) - Boko Haram fighters have kidnapped at least 60 people in a deadly attack in northern Cameroon, police said, in the latest cross-border raid by the Nigeria-based Islamist group.

The assault on Sunday came a day after neighbouring Chad deployed troops to combat Boko Haram in Cameroon and Nigeria, as part of a regional bid to combat the insurgents.

The militants "burst into two villages in the Tourou area... They torched houses and left with around 60 people. Most of them were women and children," a police officer told AFP.

He said the attack had "left some people dead" without giving an exact toll, adding that the Cameroon army had "launched an operation" in the wake of the assault.

It is the largest abduction ever carried out in Cameroon's Far North region by Boko Haram and comes amid mounting fears the group is expanding its operations into neighbouring countries.

Cameroon already came under attack last Monday when it said its troops repelled a raid by Boko Haram on a northern military base, killing 143 militants in the process.

The Nigerian government has faced widespread criticism for failing to stop the group, which is fighting to create a hardline Islamic state.

Brutal raids, massacres, suicide bomb attacks and kidnappings by the Islamists have claimed at least 13,000 lives and driven an estimated 1.5 million people from their homes, mainly in its stronghold in northeast Nigeria.

- Suicide bombing -

Also on Sunday, a suicide bomber killed four people and wounded dozens in an attack on a bus station in Potiskum, northeastern Nigeria, police and hospital sources told AFP.

"(The bomber) slowed his car twice... some distance from the bus station,? and he suddenly increased speed and rammed into buses lined up waiting for passengers," local trader Umar Sani said.

A police officer said four bodies and 48 injured people had been taken from the scene.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the town has often come under attack from Boko Haram militants.

Also in Nigeria, Chadian troops are seeking to recapture the strategic city of Baga on the shores of Lake Chad, which straddles the borders of Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon and which fell to the Islamists early this month.

Many say the assault on Baga could be Boko Haram's deadliest yet. Satellite pictures released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch showed widespread destruction with around 3,700 buildings in Baga and nearby Doron Baga damaged or destroyed.

Amnesty says as many as 2,000 civilians may have been massacred, but Nigeria's army objected to the "sensational" claims and said that the death toll in Baga was about 150.

Chad on Saturday sent troops, some 400 military vehicles and several attack helicopters to Cameroon and Nigeria to aid in the fight against the Islamist militants.

"We will advance towards the enemy tomorrow (Monday)," Chadian colonel Djerou Ibrahim, in charge of the operation, told AFP in the northern Cameroonian town of Maltam.