A group of 79 schoolchildren who were kidnapped earlier this week in Cameroon's restive English-speaking region has been freed. However, a school principal and one teacher are still being held.
All 79 of the children who were abducted by a group of armed men in Cameroon's Northwest Region were freed on Wednesday.
Assailants had stormed the Presbyterian Secondary School of Nkwen on Monday, seizing dozens of boys and three adults. The kidnappings — in the region's capital, Bamenda — came amid rising political tensions in the majority French-speaking country.
A driver who was abducted along with the children was also freed. However, according to a priest negotiating with the kidnappers, two members of school staff — a teacher and the school principal — were still being held.
A video by a group calling themselves "Amba boys" — purporting to show the kidnapped students, aged 11 to 17 — was posted on social media after the kidnappings.
The group's name refers to the proposed state of Ambazonia, which militant separatists are seeking to establish in Cameroon's Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions.
However, a spokesman for the separatists — who accuse the government of human rights abuses — denied involvement.
No ransom demand
Samuel Fonki, a minister of Cameroon's Presbyterian Church, told the AFP news agency he had negotiated with the group on Monday. He said that, instead of demanding a ransom, they had insisted that the school be closed.
The closure of schools and imposition of curfews have formed a part of the separatists' protests against Cameroon's French-speaking government, which they accuse of marginalizing the English-speaking minority.
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The releases come a day after the inauguration of 85-year-old President Paul Biya for a seventh term in office. Biya has ordered separatists to lay down their arms or face the consequences, but has also promised to pursue a degree of decentralization to address "frustrations and aspirations."
rc/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)