Free Cameroon's Kidnapped School Children

Free Cameroon's Kidnapped School Children

But no single group has said it carried out the kidnapping of the students and the principal at Bamenda's Presbyterian Secondary School, which has pupils aged between 10 and 14.

One of the workers, 27-year old Christopher Ongene said armed men attacked them Saturday evening. Between February 2017 and May 2018, for example, at least 42 schools in the regions were attacked, including 36 that were damaged by arson attacks, 11 damaged by other types of attacks, as well as two school buses burnt down and various harassments and attacks on students and teachers.

The kidnappings were the first such mass abductions seen in Cameroon and coincide with an upsurge of political tensions in the majority French-speaking country.

Governor Deben Tchoffo said they were taken from a Presbyterian school in Nkwen village.

It was not clear who was responsible for the kidnapping, which occurred in the English-speaking region of Cameroon where separatists are fighting to form a breakaway state.

"In total 81 people were kidnapped including the school principal".

Violence between armed separatists and the Cameroon military have increased over the a year ago after a government crackdown against protesters who say they are marginalized by the French-speaking government.

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"They need to know that they will face the rigour of the law and the determination of our defence and security forces", President Paul Biya said in an inauguration speech.

Some parents have said on the social media that they recognised their children in the video, but separatist groups who had called for school boycott in the regions and promised severe consequences for defiance, have dissociated themselves from the kidnappers.

Around a fifth of Cameroon's 22m people are English-speaking - a minority whose presence dates back to the colonial period.

A video said to have been released by the kidnappers shows several young boy being forced to state their name to camera.

"We hope and pray they release the kids and the teachers", he added. The video could not be independently verified, but parents have said on social media that they recognize their children in the video.

Cameroon, once a German colony, was divided between Britain and France after World War I. The French colony gained independence in 1960, becoming Cameroon. Armed separatists have also killed teachers who disobeyed orders to keep schools closed. The separatists claim that they have been marginalised in Biya's regime.

The government and English-speaking separatists have accused each other of orchestrating the kidnapping.

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