By EDWIN KINDZEKA MOKI, Associated Press
YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — Cameroon’s military has freed nine children and their teacher who had been kidnapped by gunmen Tuesday from a school in Kumba, in the country’s restive English-speaking South West region, a military official said Wednesday.
Armed gunmen abducted the students from Lords Bilingual School Tuesday morning, according to Nto’ou Ndong Chamberlin, senior divisional officer for the Meme Division where Kumba is located.
“Two of the terrorists were killed yesterday and two others early today,” Chamberlin said, adding that the military destroyed their camp. When the military came in, the kidnappers fled, abandoning the children, he said. Others are on the run and wounded.
The military found three of the children in the bush late Tuesday and six others with their teacher Wednesday. The teacher was wounded in crossfire shooting between the military and the gunmen, Chamberlin said. She is now being treated in the hospital in Kumba.
As for the children, Chamberlin said “All of them are strong and healthy and have been handed over to their families.”
The kidnapping comes more than two weeks after 79 students and three staff were kidnapped from their school in the neighboring North West region. They were ultimately released.
A parent, Mosima Brenda, questioned if her child should continue going to school in the troubled region.
“I am still thinking if my child should again go to school in the crisis-prone town or not. I think it is high time we sent him to a more secured town in the French-speaking region,” she said.
The latest unrest in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions began in 2016, when English-speaking teachers and lawyers staged demonstrations calling for reforms, criticizing what they called the marginalization of the Anglophone population, which accounts for about one-fifth of Cameroon’s 25 million people.
Violence increased after factions of separatists armed themselves following a government clampdown on protests in 2017. Armed separatists have vowed to destabilize the regions and hundreds of civilians have been killed and dozens of schools have been burned and teachers threatened. They are demanding the formation of an independent state they call Ambazonia.