Gunmen grab 79 pupils and three staff from school in Cameroon

Gunmen grab 79 pupils and three staff from school in Cameroon

Gunmen grab 79 pupils and three staff from school in Cameroon

Seventy-nine students were kidnapped on Monday in an English-speaking region of Cameroon where separatists are fighting an armed campaign for independence, a government source said.

Northwest Region Governor 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.

Hundreds have been killed in Cameroon's Anglophone regions in the past year, where violence between armed separatists and the military has increased since a government crackdown against protesters in the northwest and southwest regions.

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. The footage could not be immediately verified, but parents have reportedly been reacting to images of their children on social media, according to AP. 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.

What have the kidnappers said?

Samuel Fonki, a reverend for the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, told Reuters that he is moderating for the release of the children. All they want is for us to close the schools.

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The area is now embroiled in an ugly dispute, with separatists fighting for a breakaway state. The separatists also have set fire to at least 100 schools and driven out students and teachers from buildings taken over as training grounds.

How did the Anglophone crisis begin?

Around a fifth of Cameroon's 22 million people are English-speaking - a minority whose presence dates back to the colonial period. Many Anglophones have long complained that their regions were being neglected and excluded from power since a referendum vote in 1972 saw Cameroon dropping its federal form to become a unitary state.

Separatist groups had vowed on social media to make the English speaking regions of Cameroon ungovernable.

The abductions, the worst incident so far in 13 months of unrest, came just a day before longtime President Paul Biya was to be sworn in for a seventh term in office.

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