Cameroon school kidnap: 78 students freed two days after being abducted by armed men

Two teachers still held captive

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 07 November 2018 08:44
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Dozens of people kidnapped from school in Cameroon

Seventy-eight students kidnapped from a boarding school in Cameroon earlier this week have been freed, according to reports.

The students, all boys aged between 10 and 14, were taken from a Presbyterian school in Bamenda an English speaking area on Monday, where militias have been demanding independence.

Two teachers are still believed to be held captive by the armed men, a priest conducting negotiations has said, Reuters reports.

"Praise God 78 children and the driver have been released. The principal and one teacher are still with the kidnappers. Let us keep praying," Samuel Fonki, a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, said.

He had earlier put the number of children taken at 79, but later said one of their number was in fact a teacher, who remained with the kidnappers.

Separatists in the region are fighting to form an independent state they call Ambazonia. They have imposed curfews and closed down schools to turn them into training grounds as part of their struggle.

There have been reports of teachers being killed and buildings being torched during dozens of similar attacks.

After the kidnap a video was released on social media purporting to show the kidnappers forcing several children to give their names and the names of their parents and urging them to speak louder.

Many repeat the same phrase: “I was taken from school last night by the Amba boys and I don’t know where I am.”

The alleged kidnapper is recorded telling the students: “We shall only release you after the struggle. You will be going to school now here … all of us stay here and fight for this struggle inside Ambazonia land.”

Mr Fonki and the Cameroonian military have accused anglophone separatists of carrying out the kidnappings, but a separatist spokesman denied involvement.

In an inauguration speech following last month's election to extend his 36-year rule, President Paul Biya told the separatists to lay down their arms or face the full force of the law, offering no concessions to them.

Anglophone secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against Biya's French-speaking government and its perceived marginalisation of the English-speaking minority, although they had never kidnapped children before.

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Authorities had suspended the movement of all non-emergency vehicles in the area as a huge military search effort got underway.

Additional reporting by agencies

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