- Armed separatists kidnapped at least 79 students and three
staff members from a Presbyterian school in a troubled
English-speaking region of Cameroon.
The students abducted Sunday night were ages 11-17,
along with school staff that included the principal.
- The kidnappers have vowed to destabilize Cameroon’s
english-speaking regions as part of the strategy for creating a
YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — Armed separatists kidnapped at least 79
students and three staff members from a Presbyterian school in a
troubled English-speaking region of Cameroon, the governor said
North West Region Gov. Deben Tchoffo said the students abducted
Sunday night were ages 11-17, and they were taken from Nkwen, a
village near the regional capital, Bamenda, along with school
staff that included the principal.
“It is rather unfortunate that this is happening, that 79 of our
children and three of their staff can be picked up by
terrorists,” Tchoffo said. “We have asked our military to do
everything and bring back the kids alive.”
A video purporting to show the kidnapped students was posted on
social media from a group of men who call themselves “Amba boys,”
a reference to the state of Ambazonia that armed separatists want
to establish in Cameroon’s Anglophone North West and South West
In the video, men who identified themselves as the kidnappers
forced several boys to give their names and those of their
parents. The boys also said they were taken by the armed men late
Sunday and didn’t know where they were being held.
The men in the video said they would only release the students
once the goal of creating a new state is achieved.
“We shall only release you after the struggle. You will be going
to school now here,” the men said. The video could not be
independently verified, but parents said on social media they
recognized their children in the recording.
Fighting between the military and separatists increased after the
government clamped down on peaceful demonstrations by
English-speaking teachers and lawyers protesting what they said
were their marginalization by Cameroon’s French-speaking
Hundreds have been killed in the past year.
The separatists have vowed to destabilize the regions as part of
the strategy for creating a breakaway state. They have attacked
civilians who do not support their cause, including teachers who
were killed for disobeying orders to keep schools closed.
There have been kidnappings at other schools, but the group taken
Sunday was the largest number abducted at one time in Cameroon’s
Anglophone regions. The separatists also have set fire to at
least 100 schools and driven out students and teachers from
buildings taken over as training grounds.
“These appalling abductions show just how the general population
is paying the highest price as violence escalates in the
Anglophone region,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International
deputy regional director for West and Central Africa. “The
abduction of schoolchildren and teachers can never be justified.”
Amnesty International expressed solidarity with the students’
families and demanded “that the Cameroon authorities do
everything in their power to ensure all the pupils and school
staff are freed unharmed.”
Last week, separatist militants attacked workers on a state-run
rubber plantation in southwestern Cameroon, allegedly chopping
off their fingers because the men defied an order to stay away
from the farms.
An American missionary also died in the North West region near
its capital, Bamenda, when he was shot in the head amid fighting
between separatists and soldiers.
The turmoil in Cameroon comes after President Paul Biya won a
seventh term last month in an election the US said was marked by
irregularities. Biya, who has been in office since 1982, is set
to be inaugurated Tuesday.
Associated Press writer Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal,