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Cameroonian army kills scores in Anglophone region

Isaac Mugabi (Reuters,AP)
May 27, 2018

Twenty-two people were killed in clashes with the army in Cameroon in the latest violence to hit the restive northwest, where separatists from the English-speaking minority are fighting for greater autonomy.

Cameroon troops patrol city
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Huguet

The identity of those killed was not immediately clear, with the army describing them as "terrorists" and villagers saying they were criminals. The clashes come after the US ambassador to Cameroon accused government forces earlier this month of carrying out targeted killings and other abuses in the fight against the independence-seeking militants.

 "Twenty-two people were killed in Menka during a confrontation a group of people that were presented as criminals," said Nji Tumasang, a member of the English-speaking opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) in Santa, the area in which the town of Menka is located.

 Violence between insurgents and government forces has occurred almost daily in the region since a political crisis escalated in late 2016.

A Cameroonian soldier on patrol
Cameroonian soldiers have often been accused of carrying out targeted killingsImage: picture alliance/robertharding/T. Graham

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 An army official confirmed the incident, speaking of "several neutralized terrorists".

"A group of terrorists was reported in Menka" and the military intervened to surround the hotel where they were, army spokesman Colonel Didier Badjeck said. Several weapons and ammunition had been seized, he added.

But in the village, people do not think they were separatists, but rather criminals, according to Tumasang. The presence of a large English-speaking minority -- about a fifth of Cameroon's population of 22 million dates back to the colonial period.

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

In 1960, the French part gained independence, becoming Cameroon, and the following year, the British-ruled Southern Cameroons was amalgamated into it, becoming the Northwest and Southwest Regions.

For years, resentment built among Anglophones, fostered by perceived marginalization in education, the judiciary and the economy at the hands of the French-speaking majority.

Demands for greater autonomy were rejected by 85-year-old President Paul Biya, in power for more than 35 years, leading to an escalation that saw the declaration of the self-described "Republic of Ambazonia" in October last year.

Separatist violence in Cameroon