Almost 80 children kidnapped in Cameroon released but two teachers still held

Almost 80 children kidnapped in Cameroon released but two teachers still held

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 Monday.

The group was abducted in Bamenda, a commercial hub of Cameroon's restive English-speaking region, on Monday.

Several hours after the kidnapping took place, a video was released on social media which showed the kidnappers forcing the abducted children to call out their names and the names of their parents. Cameroon is a country still deeply divided by colonial influences of English and French- some of the English minority support the creation of a separate English state in the West called Ambazonia, and in the a year ago militias have formed in pursuit of that goal.

In the video, the kidnappers force several young male students to give their names and the names of their parents. "You will be going to school now here", say the men who identified themselves as Amba boys.

According to United Nations figures, 246,000 people in the Southwest Region have fled their homes, and 25,000 have sought shelter in neighbouring Nigeria, many of them living hand-to-mouth in the forests.

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 marginalisation by Cameroon's French- speaking majority.

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"Praise God seventy-eight children and the driver have been released".

"We shall only release you after the struggle". One government official blamed Anglophone separatist groups, but the largest separatist groups have denied involvement and condemned the attack, insisting that they do not attack civilians.

The crisis started as an industrial strike by lawyers and teachers in 2016, but snowballed into an internal armed conflict since previous year when separatists joined and symbolically declared the independence of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia.

He pleaded with the kidnappers to free the staff still held. The government responded with a crackdown and separatists fought back. Witnesses described being beaten, slapped and lectured on the living conditions at the school, before the attackers left with the principal, a teacher, a driver and the students.

Last week separatist militants attacked workers on a state-run rubber plantation in southwestern Cameroon, chopping off their fingers because the men had defied an order to stay away from the farms.

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