Swiss and Italian tourists kidnapped in Cameroon have been rescued by local security forces. The travelers were on their way to a popular tourist destination when they were seized by armed men.
A group of 12 European hostages taken by separatists campaigning for independence in Cameroon has been released in a military grab, the government revealed on Wednesday.
Seven Swiss and five Italian travelers were freed by troops in a "special operation" on Monday, after being taken hostage in the Nguti area of the South West region "by a band of armed terrorists," Minister of Communication Issa Tchiroma Bakary said in a statement.
"They were looking tired, hungry and unkept and you could tell they were stressed," DW's correspondent said of the released tourists.
The Europeans, who were part of a tour entourage called the African Adventure Group, were on their way to a popular tourist destination, the Twin Lakes in Mount Manengouba National Park, when they were abducted.
The released hostages have now been taken to hospital for treatment and are organizing return travel with their embassies. It is not known when exactly they went missing, and the identities of their kidnappers are not clear.
An additional six municipal councilors in the northwest of the country were rescued from capture on the same day following a security operation that involved "tens of assailants neutralized, huge stocks of weapons and ammunition as well as large quantities of drugs seized," the government statement said.
Struggle for independence
Protesters in the predominantly English-speaking northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon have been engaged in a struggle for a separate state, claiming they are marginalized by the country’s French majority.
No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, although a group associated with the main English-speaking separatist group, the Ambazonia Defence Force (ADF) - responsible for the deaths of more than 20 state security agents in their fight for independence - has denied any involvement.
"ADF does not take hostages. ADF arrests enablers and collaborators and does not arrests foreign nationals," Cho Ayaba, a leader of the Ambazonian Governing Council, told Reuters.
The tensions between the English- and French-speaking regions of the nation are a legacy of the country’s colonial period. Once a German colony, Cameroon was divided into British and French regions post World War I, only to form a united federal republic in 1961.
In October last year, the separatist movement declared symbolic independence for their 'Ambazonia' state. Cameroonian President Paul Biya has responded to the uprising with increased restrictions for residents, including curfews, raids and constraints on travel.
cs/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)