Cameroon: four soldiers killed by English-speaking separatists

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Four soldiers and two civilians were killed on Friday in western Cameroon in a new attack by separatist insurgents fighting the army in areas populated by the English-speaking minority, the government said.

At dawn on Friday, elements of the “secessionist armed bands” attacked a military checkpoint in Matazem, straddling the West region, populated by the French-speaking majority, and the North-West, one of the two English-speaking regions of the country, assured in a statement the Minister of Communication and government spokesperson, René Emmanuel Sadi.

“The death toll is six, including four members of the National Defense Forces and two civilians,” he added, without further details on the attack.

Already on Wednesday, about forty km further north, four soldiers and an official had perished in the explosion of a bomb as the convoy of a prefect passed in Mbengwi, in the north-west, attributed by Yaoundé to the English-speaking secessionists, whom he describes as “terrorists”.

The North-West and the South-West have been plagued for more than three years by a bloody conflict between English-speaking armed groups who demand the independence of the two regions under the name of Ambazonia and the security forces dispatched en masse by Yaoundé to repress them. Part of the English-speaking minority considers itself marginalized in Cameroon, a former French colony populated mainly by French-speaking people.

Civilians are frequently caught in a pincer movement and victims of crimes and abuses on both sides, according to international NGOs and the UN. This conflict has left more than 3,000 dead and forced more than 700,000 people to flee their homes.

In addition to their attacks targeting police officers and soldiers, the armed separatists, nicknamed “Amba Boys”, are increasing the kidnappings of civilians, in particular students and teachers in schools, whom they accuse in particular of perpetuating teaching in French, and murdering inhabitants whom they suspect of “collaborating” with Yaoundé.

For their part, the military and police frequently engage in intimidation operations and kill civilians, voluntarily or in the dark, according to international NGOs and the UN.

The regime of President Paul Biya, 87 years old, 38 of whom are in power, under intense international pressure following in particular massacres of civilians by soldiers, granted, following a Grand National Dialogue in September 2019, some additional prerogatives to the two regions as part of a relaunch of its decentralization policy.

But the security forces at the same time intensified their fight against armed separatists, who had rejected the proposals.

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