The death sentence handed down to 89 members of Boko Haram terror group by the Cameroonian government will be counterproductive, a counter-terrorism expert claimed. David Otto, CEO of UK-based global security provider TGS Intelligence Consultants, says the latest verdicts will only prompt retaliatory attacks on civilians from the Islamist terrorists. He warned they may even start targeting southern Cameroon.
"The government has no clue on the potential martyrdom effects this will create. One must be reminded that no amount of punishment frightens a man who is not afraid of death. Boko Haram will surely react and possibly reach the South," said Otto.
A military court in Cameroon issued the judgement on Boko Haram prisoners after the country passed an anti-terrorism law permitting the death penalty in 2014. The judge said the convicts will not have the right to appeal and added nearly 1,000 Boko Haram suspects are awaiting trial in Cameroon.
Although the decision drew criticism from human rights groups, some Cameroonians were hoping it would put a halt to the insurgency.
Boko Haram has killed thousands of people since its insurgency became violent in 2009. The conflict, which originated in Nigeria, spilled over into northern Cameroon soon after.
Who are Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorists?
Boko Haram, which has renamed itself Iswap, fights against Western influence in Nigeria and aims to impose its version of Sharia law throughout occupied territories.
The group carries out attacks in Nigeria and neighbouring countries in a bid to take control of more territory. Three Nigerian states − Adamawa,Borno and Yobe − have been under a state of emergency since May 2013.
Boko Haram has killed 20,000 people since 2009 and was deemed the world's deadliest terror group, surpassing its ally, Islamic State (Isis), in November 2015.
Nigeria has become the third most terrorised country as a result of the group's violent insurgency.
"The Cameroonian government has weighed the cost benefit analysis of deradicalisation and reintegration into society and it has chosen the cheapest option, attaching a legal justification on it," said Otto. "The government has to be careful not to draw Cameroon into a global jihadist lens. I suspect we will see some attacks within the next eight weeks."
Death sentence not a deterrent
Temitope Olodo, preventive terrorism expert and author, also believes the death sentence will increase the possibility of attacks.
"The use of the death sentence should be discouraged because it is not an effective deterrent to violent extremism. The sentencing would rather motivate the insurgent that encourage them to carry out more attacks against Cameroon in the name of revenging the death of their falling comrade," he said in a statement.
Olodo also added that Nigeria – Boko Haram's birthplace – might be targeted with retaliation attacks if there are Nigerians among the insurgents sentenced to death. "If members of Boko Haram view the 89 convicts as martyrs then we have a big hurdle to address in the future," he continued.
Cameroon is part of a regional offensive with 8,700 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin lined up against the terrorists. Although the Nigerian government has claimed several times the fight against the terrorists has been "technically" won, several analysts warned the group is still deadly and able to inflict major casualties on civilians and the military.
The last attack to be blamed on Boko Haram claimed 22 lives when female suicide bombers detonated explosives inside and outside a mosque in northern Nigeria. Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, Nigeria's director of defence information, told IBTimes UK the "remnants of Boko Haram" could be behind the blasts, but added the fight against the terrorists was due to end soon.