Thursday, 22 November, 2018

Dozens of students kidnapped from Presbyterian school in Cameroon

Seventy-nine pupils were kidnapped in Cameroon Seventy-nine pupils were kidnapped in Cameroon
Melinda Barton | 07 November, 2018, 11:12

Armed assailants have kidnapped about 80 children from a school in western Cameroon during the night, government and military sources have said.

In a video posted to social media appearing to show the kidnapped group, the hostage-takers call themselves "Amba boys" and claim responsibility for the abductions.

Separatists are fighting an armed campaign in the area as they seek to set up an independent state called Ambazonia. The video shows several boys giving their names and saying they do not know where they are being held.

The men who identify themselves on the video as the kidnappers say they will only release the children when they achieve what they want.

While such mass kidnappings were previously unknown in Cameroon, the abduction came after two major such incidents in neighbouring Nigeria, where the Islamist group Boko Haram snatched more than 200 schoolgirls from the Borno state town of Chibok in April 2014.

The church has also said that Sunday's kidnapping was the second kidnapping at the same school in less than a week.

The school's website says that the student body numbers more than 700, drawn from "all the religious and linguistic origins of Cameroon". The video could not be independently verified, but parents have said on social media that they recognize their children in the video.

In another development, armed groups in Cameroon's restive English speaking regions have been attacking and chopping off fingers of workers of the country's second largest employer, the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), in what has been described as renewed efforts to destabilise the central African state ahead of Tuesday inauguration of President-elect Paul Biya, who has been in power for 36 years.

It comes after elections on October 7 in which 85-year-old Biya, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for 35 years, was credited with 71.3 percent of the vote.

They were kidnapped with three school staff members, but Tchiroma said their fate was not yet clear.

"We shall only release you after the struggle".

Most English-speaking schools have closed, but some remain open, including the one where the students were taken, The Guardian reports.

A government spokesman said it was keeping track of an event but that it could not comment further. Many people have fled Bamenda and other cities and have moved to French-speaking regions. The Anglophone regions have frequently erupted into violence since late 2016, when a number of English-speaking lawyers protested that a newly passed law wasn't translated from French.