At least 20 hostages of the 80 hostages taken after this weekend’s raid by Boko Haram on villages in Cameroon have been set free. Officials don’t yet know how it is that those 20 people managed to escape their captors.

The raid was typical of Boko Haram in every way—except that they crossed the border from Nigeria into Cameroon to carry it out. Via Reuters:

“According to our initial information, around 30 adults, most of them herders, and 50 young girls and boys aged between 10 and 15 years were abducted,” a senior army officer deployed to northern Cameroon told Reuters.

He said the early-morning attack had targeted the village of Mabass and other villages along the porous border. Soldiers intervened and exchanged fire with the raiders for around two hours, he added.

Government spokesman Issa Tchiroma confirmed the attack, in which he said three people had been killed, as well as the kidnappings. He was not able to say with certainty how many people had been taken in the raid.

“There was a Boko Haram attack on several localities in the Far North region. The assailants burnt down about 80 homes and kidnapped several inhabitants including women and very young children,” he said.

Boko Haram is increasing the scope of its operations, which comes as a major concern for security forces tasked with dealing with the group. Late last year, we covered the evolution of the group from regional threat to cross-border terror organization; things have only gotten worse for the people of Nigeria and the surrounding areas.

Leaders of countries like Niger and Cameroon have criticized the leadership of Nigeria for not developing a plan to deal with Boko Haram, and have been forced to deploy their own militaries to engage the terrorists when they cross the border for raids. What’s troubling about this isn’t just the politics of the situation, but the fact that (if reports from the region are true) the leadership is ignoring a growing threat from an organization that actually wants to establish an Islamic state.

Boko Haram isn’t just burning villages and taking hostages—they’re pulling new fighters from Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, and setting up alternative-authority structures in areas that are mostly poor and mostly ignored by the government. The killing field is also the breeding ground for newly-minted terrorists, and resistance (when found) is brutally cut down.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—the situation is spiraling. By now, we know what a radical insurgency looks like, and we know generally how they operate and gain power; and right now, that’s exactly what Boko Haram is doing—gaining power. They’ve amped up their attacks in anticipation of Nigeria’s February elections, and drawn attention to the fact that the current government hasn’t been able to stop them not only from slaughtering their own people, but people in neighboring countries.

We’ve seen these kind of tactics before: force the people into an alternative reality, recruit from conquered territory, increase conquered territory, wash, rinse, repeat. If it’s not controlled, and quickly, I think we all know how it will end.