Nearly 80 children kidnapped from school in Cameroon

Armed assailants abduct students in the country’s turbulent English-speaking region

File image of a crowded street in Cameroon. Armed assailants have kidnapped about 80 children from a school in western Cameroon. File photograph: Getty Images

File image of a crowded street in Cameroon. Armed assailants have kidnapped about 80 children from a school in western Cameroon. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Armed assailants kidnapped about 80 children from a school in western Cameroon before dawn on Monday, sources said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the abductions in Bamenda, a city in the country’s English-speaking region where separatists are fighting to form a breakaway state.

Secessionists have imposed curfews and closed down schools as part of their protest against president Paul Biya’s French-speaking government and its perceived marginalisation of Cameroon’s Anglophone minority.

However, a separatist spokesman denied involvement in the kidnapping.

“In total 81 people were kidnapped, including the [school] principal. They were taken to the bush,” a military source told Reuters.

Another source said that 79 of the kidnapped were children. An army spokesman confirmed the abductions but declined to say how many were taken. He said that the incident was most likely to have been carried out by separatists.

A separatist spokesman denied involvement and blamed government soldiers.

The separatist movement gathered pace in 2017 after a government crackdown on peaceful demonstrations. One of its original gripes was that French-speaking teachers were being deployed to English-speaking schools in the northwest and southwest regions.

Violence in the region intensified in 2018, including an army crackdown in which civilians were killed. Many people have fled Bamenda and other centres to seek refuge in more peaceful Francophone regions. – Reuters