Four Cameroonian soldiers suspected of shooting to death unarmed women and children have been arrested, according to reports.
A video that began circulating earlier this month appears to show men in Cameroonian military uniforms executing two women and two children in the north of the country.
The four soldiers were arrested on Sunday and are suspected of being the men responsible for the extrajudicial executions, Reuters reported an army officer in the Far North region as saying on Thursday, July 19.
Three of soldiers are being held in the capital Yaounde, according to the report. Questioning of the three, who are directly implicated in the video, led to the arrest of a fourth soldier who played a role in the executions but was not present, AFP reported on Thursday.
The video shows men in Cameroonian military uniforms leading two women, one with a child strapped to her back, to a ditch. One of the men, speaking French, accuses the women of belonging to the group Boko Haram, before they open fire and shoot the women and two children more than a dozen times.
A source told AFP that the military personnel were from the air force and were deployed in the village of Mabass near Nigeria.
Reuters reported that the video may have been shot in 2014 or 2015. Investigators are trying to determine if it was an isolated incident or part of a broader pattern, AFP said.
Issa Tchiroma Bakary, a government spokesperson, initially dismissed the video as “fake news” but said it would investigate the allegations.
“Within the army, here in this region, there is no doubt as to the video’s authenticity. Some soldiers clearly expressed their disapproval to their colleagues who were implicated,” AFP reported a source close to the army as saying.
The investigation group Bellingcat and others have sought to verify the video and pinpoint the location of the executions. Rights group Amnesty International said on July 12 that it had “gathered credible evidence that it was Cameroonian soldiers depicted in a video carrying out the horrific extrajudicial executions of two women and two young children,” based on an analysis of their military uniforms, weapons and dialogue in the video.
Cameroon’s army is fighting a Boko Haram insurgency in the Far North. Since 2014, Boko Haram has killed 2,000 civilians and soldiers and kidnapped about 1,000 people in northern Cameroon, according to an analysis by the International Crisis Group.
The Cameroonian army has been accused of extrajudicial executions of people suspected to be in Boko Haram, charges it continues to deny.
Boko Haram has caused the deaths of at least 20,000 people since it took up arms in 2009.