Northern Cameroon announces ban on burkas and face veils

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — Cameroon's north region has banned women from wearing burkas and face-covering veils after suicide bombings by females in burkas killed at least 14 people in a northern town on Sunday, a government official said Wednesday.

The region has also banned Muslims from meeting in large groups without permission, as the end of Ramadan nears, said Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of Cameroon's Far North Region.

"No one suspected them and that is why we have ordered women to stop wearing veils and the police and military to arrest all women wearing veils," he said of the Sunday attacks. It was first reported that two bombs were planted, but President Paul Biya has announced that investigations found the explosions were launched by two women wearing burkas.

"We are also systematically checking all vehicles, and controlling all luggage and the population should collaborate because there is a serious security threat to our nation," said governor Bakari.

The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has been launching attacks across Nigeria's borders, and then retreating. The militants also attacked Fotokol, in Cameroon across the border from Nigeria's Borno state, in February and scores were killed and churches and mosques were burned.

Troops from Cameroon and Chad are fighting Nigeria's Islamic extremists in several communities on Cameroon's border with Nigeria. Cameroon has arrested dozens accused of promoting radical ideology and collaborating with Nigeria's Boko Haram.

Imam Hamaounde Abba of Mora in the Far North Region protested the ban, saying for those who wear the veil it's not a choice.

About 20 percent of the 22 million people living in Cameroon are Muslim, 40 percent are Christians and the rest hold traditional beliefs, according to Cameroon's National Institute of Statistics.