Story highlights

Government in Cameroon region on alert

Officials concerned about activity of militant Islamist group

Boko Haram has clashed with forces in neighboring Nigeria

(CNN) —  

The governor of Cameroon’s Far North Region on Thursday said threats posed by militant Islamist group Boko Haram were “very critical.”

Speaking in Mokolo, Gov. Joseph Beti Assomo told reporters that all senior state security officials, divisional heads and religious leaders have been put on the alert.

Some 600 soldiers in the Far North region have been ordered out of their barracks and strategically deployed in localities close to the border with Nigeria, he added.

Cameroon’s regional governments have intensified rigorous checks after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ordered border closures with some neighboring countries, including Cameroon, due to threats from the Boko Haram. Residents in the Far North capital of Maroua have been reporting to police a growing number of strangers and unusual occurrences.

The Far North Region is largely Muslim and shares a border with northern Nigeria, where the Boko Haram is based.

Trade and custom officials in Maroua say nearly 80% of its regional economy has shrunk since the closure of the borders.

Consumers of Nigerian sugar, flour, cement and other manufactured products are concerned about plummeting supplies, while smuggled Nigerian fuel, locally called “zoua-zoua,” is the object of sharp price hikes.

The Far North Region is home to more than 2 million people, according to an official head count.

Recent weeks have seen an escalation in clashes between Boko Haram and security forces in Nigeria’s northeastern states of Borno and Yobe, as well as attacks on churches and assassinations.

Boko Haram (which according to the group means “Western civilization is forbidden”) is demanding the imposition of Islamic sharia law across Nigeria.

CNN’s Tim Lister contributed to this report.