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Nearly 80 school children kidnapped in Cameroon

20:01 07 November 2018 Author :  

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Armed assailants kidnapped about 80 children from a school in western Cameroon before dawn on Monday, government and military sources said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the abduction from Bamenda, a city in the English-speaking region where separatists are fighting to form a breakaway state.

Secessionists have imposed curfews and closed down schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya's French-speaking government and its perceived marginalization of the Anglophone minority. A separatist spokesman denied involvement in the kidnapping.

"In total 81 people were kidnapped including the (school) principal. They were taken to the bush," a military source told Reuters.

Another source said that 79 of the kidnapped were children. An army spokesman confirmed the abduction but declined to say how many were taken. He said that it was most likely to have been carried out by separatists.

A separatist spokesman denied involvement and blamed government soldiers.

The separatist movement gathered pace in 2017 after a government crackdown on peaceful demonstrations. One of the original gripes was that French-speaking teachers were being deployed to English-speaking schools in the Northwest and Southwest regions.

Violence intensified in 2018, including during an army crackdown in which civilians were killed. Many people have fled Bamenda and other centers to seek refuge in more peaceful Francophone regions.

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