Min­is­ter am­bushed in restive re­gion, ‘as­sailants killed’

Gulf Times - - AFRICA -

Acon­voy trans­port­ing Cameroo­nian De­fence Min­is­ter Joseph Beti As­somo was am­bushed in the coun­try’s restive an­glo­phone re­gion, leav­ing sev­eral at­tack­ers dead, state ra­dio said yes­ter­day.

Four sol­diers and a re­porter were also in­jured in Thurs­day’s at­tack, other sources said, while the jour­nal­ist said the con­voy was am­bushed again just a short time later. News of the brazen as­sault came as the coun­try’s 85-year-old pres­i­dent Paul Biya — who has or­dered a crack­down in the trou­bled re­gion — de­clared yes­ter­day he would bid for a sev­enth con­sec­u­tive term in of­fice.

Jour­nal­ist Gre­goire Djar­maila, who writes for the state daily the Cameroon Tri­bune and was in­jured by fly­ing glass, said the at­tack oc­curred as Beti As­somo was head­ing for a visit to a mil­i­tary po­si­tion seven kilo­me­tres from the town of Kumba.

The con­voy com­prised about 30 ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing an ar­mour­plated ve­hi­cle that was car­ry­ing the min­is­ter and six gen­er­als, he said. It en­coun­tered a road­block about half­way along the route, “and our ve­hi­cles were rid­dled by gun­fire, com­ing from houses that been aban­doned be­cause of the war,” Djar­maila said.

The mil­i­tary es­cort re­turned fire, en­abling the con­voy to reach the mil­i­tary post.

“But no sooner had we left the post than we were at­tacked again. This time, they looked more nu­mer­ous and de­ter­mined... (they fired) on all the ve­hi­cles in the con­voy.” Djar­maila said that “our good luck was that they were us­ing home-made hunt­ing guns” rather than mil­i­tary weapons, adding that he ex­pe­ri­enced “40 min­utes of hell.”

The am­bush oc­curred in the heart­land of an armed cam­paign to gain in­de­pen­dence for the North­west and South­west Re­gions, a pre­dom­i­nantly English-speak­ing part of the French-speak­ing West African state. Years of re­sent­ment at per­ceived dis­crim­i­na­tion at the hands of the fran­co­phone ma­jor­ity fu­elled de­mands in 2016 for a re­turn to the coun­try’s fed­eral struc­ture.

Biya took a hard line, rul­ing out any con­ces­sions.

As the sit­u­a­tion po­larised, an­glo­phone mil­i­tants last Oc­to­ber 1 made a sym­bolic dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence. They named Buea, the main town of South­west Re­gion which lies close to Kumba, as the cap­i­tal of their pur­ported state, Am­bazo­nia.

It has no in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion. A gov­ern­ment crack­down then fol­lowed, plung­ing the two re­gions into al­most daily acts of vi­o­lence and ret­ri­bu­tion that have claimed scores of lives and forced tens of thou­sands from their homes.

The vi­o­lence has co­in­cided with bloody cross-bor­der in­cur­sions in north­ern Cameroon by Nige­ria’s Boko Haram mil­i­tants.

The twin crises have cast a dark shadow over a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion sched­uled for Oc­to­ber 7 — a fact that Biya, who has been head of state for 35 years, ap­peared to ac­knowl­edge in his an­nounce­ment on Twit­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Qatar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.