80 ab­ducted pupils freed in trou­bled Cameroon

Times of Oman - - WORLD -

YAOUNDÉ: Ninety chil­dren kid­napped at a school in a trou­bled English-speak­ing re­gion of Cameroon have been freed, of­fi­cials said on Wed­nes­day, re­veal­ing that in ad­di­tion to 79 stu­dents whose ab­duc­tion had al­ready been an­nounced, 11 school­mates were seized last week.

All are en­rolled at the Presbyterian Se­condary School in Ba­menda, cap­i­tal of Cameroon’s North­west Re­gion -- one of two ar­eas where surg­ing An­glo­phone sep­a­ratist mil­i­tancy has been met with a bru­tal crack­down by au­thor­i­ties.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Issa Bakary Tchi­roma said “all 79 stu­dents” seized on Mon­day “have been re­leased,” with­out giv­ing de­tails of the cir­cum­stances un­der which they were set free.

The stu­dents were kid­napped with their prin­ci­pal, a teacher and a driver, but Tchi­roma said their fate was not yet clear.

Sep­a­rately, the Presbyterian Church, which runs the school, said that 11 other pupils were taken on Oc­to­ber 31 but they have now been freed.

News of their dis­ap­pear­ance had been with­held to en­able ne­go­ti­a­tions with the kid­nap­pers, the church said.

It said the school, lo­cated on the out­skirts of Ba­menda where there is a neg­li­gi­ble pres­ence by the se­cu­rity forces, would re­main shut­tered “un­til fur­ther no­tice”.

On Tues­day, a lead­ing mem­ber of the church, Rev­erend Foki Sa­muel Forba, said he had been ne­go­ti­at­ing with the kid­nap­pers, who were not de­mand­ing a ran­som but the clo­sure of the school.

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. The re­lease was an­nounced a day after Cameroon’s 85-year-old Pres­i­dent Paul Biya was sworn in for a sev­enth term in of­fice.

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