Nearly 80 children kidnapped in Cameroon released but two teachers still held
All 79 children and a driver kidnapped in west Cameroon have now been freed, but a principal and one teacher are still being held by the armed men that took them, a priest conducting negotiations has said.
- The children were kidnapped Monday along with several teachers
- Cameroon’s Government blames Angolophone separatists, who deny involvement
- It was not clear whether a deal had been made with the kidnappers to secure their release
The group was abducted on Monday in Bamenda, a commercial hub of Cameroon’s restive English-speaking region, according to military and government sources.
“Praise God 78 children and the driver have been released,” said Samuel Fonki, a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon.
“The principal and one teacher are still with the kidnappers. Let us keep praying.”
One other child had escaped earlier, he added.
The priest did not say precisely when the children were freed, or whether any deal had been made with the kidnappers.
He had earlier said another 11 school children were kidnapped by the same armed group on October 31, then released after the school paid a ransom of 2.5 million CFA francs ($6,000).
Cameroon’s north-west and south-west areas are beset by instability caused by English-speaking separatists.
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 was their marginalisation by Cameroon’s French-speaking majority.
There have been kidnappings at other schools, but the latest group taken was the largest number abducted at one time in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions.
The North West region governor, Deben Tchoffo, has insisted that the Government is providing adequate security for schools and called on locals to assist in the effort.
But Tah Pascal, father of one of the kidnapped students, said he does not trust what the governor has said.
“How can he always talk of protection and security when our schools are torched every day, our children tortured and their teachers killed?” he said.
“This is done in spite of the presence of the military.”