Rebels killed five gendarmes in Cameroon near a region where a deadly conflict has pitted separatists from the country’s anglophone minority against the security forces, local sources said on Wednesday.
Armed men overnight Tuesday attacked a gendarmerie post in Njitapon in the West Region, around a dozen kilometers (eight miles) from the mainly English-speaking and restive Northwest Region.
“The separatists killed five gendarmes,” Adamou Youmou Koupit, the local MP for the opposition Cameroon Democratic Union party, told AFP.
A senior local government official, who asked not to be named, also accused anglophone separatists of carrying out the attack.
“The toll is five dead, all gendarmes, and three injured. We are combing the area,” he told AFP.
The Northwest and neighboring Southwest Region are home to most of the anglophone minority in majority French-speaking Cameroon.
After years of chafing at perceived discrimination and marginalization, anglophone militants declared an independent state, the Federal Republic of Ambazonia, in the two regions in 2017, triggering a crackdown by the authorities.
Separatists have targeted police, soldiers, officials, and schools, which they deem to be symbols of the state, often carrying out kidnappings.
Cameroon’s 89-year-old President Paul Biya, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for almost four decades, has refused demands for a federal structure.
The United Nations and NGOs have accused the rebels and security forces of committing crimes against civilians in the two English-speaking regions.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank estimates that the conflict has killed 6,000 people, mostly civilians, and forced more than one million people to flee their homes.
On Tuesday, Cameroon’s defense ministry said soldiers killed nine civilians including a baby earlier this month in the Northwest Region, admitting their actions were “inappropriate” and “manifestly disproportionate.”