Separatists in Cameroon’s restive anglophone region, scene of six years of fighting between the state and insurgents, have kidnapped around 30 women who were protesting against violence, officials said on Tuesday.
“Over 30 women were severely tortured and kidnapped by heavily-armed terrorists” on Saturday in the village of Kedjom Keku in the northwest region, where armed separatist groups frequently kidnap civilians, mostly for ransom, local officials said.
The government typically uses the phrase “terrorists” in connection with armed insurgents from the majority-francophone country’s English-speaking minority who are fighting to establish an independent homeland.
“Around 30 women were kidnapped by separatists (on Saturday morning) We have not found them yet,” an army colonel told AFP Tuesday, on condition of anonymity.
The Ministry of Territorial Administration confirmed to AFP that there was “no news of the hostages” late Tuesday.
The day before, the “elderly” women had organized a “peaceful march to protest… criminal activities of the terrorists,” the local authorities said.
Fighting broke out in October 2017 when militants declared an independent state in the Northwest region and Southwest region, home to most of the anglophone minority in a country that is 80 percent French-speaking.
Both the separatists and government forces have been accused of atrocities in the fighting.
Armed groups are regularly accused of abducting, killing, or injuring civilians whom they accuse of “collaborating” with Cameroonian authorities.
NGOs and the UN accuse the government of repressing dissent in the English-speaking areas as well as clamping down hard on political opponents.