At Least 78 Students Kidnapped in Cameroon

At Least 78 Students Kidnapped in Cameroon

There have been kidnappings at other schools, but the group taken yesterday was the largest number abducted at one time in Cameroon's Anglophone regions.

The country's communications minister, Issa Bakary Tchiroma, said all students, who had been taken from a school in the city of Bamenda, had been released.

One student, who managed to avoid capture by hiding under a bed, told the BBC that events unfolded quickly as the kidnappers entered the school.

A video purportedly of the kidnapped children has been released on social media by a group who call themselves Amba boys, a reference to the state of Ambazonia that armed separatists are trying to establish in Cameroon's northwest and southwest regions.

No group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

The school's website says that the student body numbers more than 700, drawn from "all the religious and linguistic origins of Cameroon".

Armed men kidnapped 78 students from a Presbyterian school in the Nkwen village, Northwest Region Governor Deben Tchoffo said.

There has been no official statement from the school authorities and as reporters spoke to the parents, a lot of them believed a number of children who had not been kidnapped were being held by the authorities, something that only piles up their frustration.

Separatists have imposed curfews and closed down schools as part of their protest.

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"They need to know that they will face the rigour of the law and the determination of our defence and security forces", President Paul Biya said in an inauguration speech.

Violent separatists took up arms to destabilise the Anglophone regions to win independence for the areas they want to declare a separate state, which they call Ambazonia. Tensions increased after Biya was easily reelected last month for a seventh term in office.

"We urge an immediate halt to the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and burning of houses by Cameroonian government forces and to attacks perpetrated by. anglophone separatists", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. The video could not be independently verified, but parents have said on social media that they recognize their children in the video.

"We shall only release you after the struggle".

Around a fifth of Cameroon's 22 million people are English-speaking - a minority whose presence dates back to the colonial period.

Cameroon, once a German colony, was divided between Britain and France after World War I.

They have decreed a boycott of schools, saying that the French-speaking education system marginalises anglophone students.

The government and separatists in the English-speaking region have been accusing each other of being behind the kidnapping.

More than 300,000 people have fled the violence, many of them now living from hand-to-mouth and exposed to varied dangers in the forests, and some across the border into Nigeria.

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