80 abducted pupils freed in troubled Cameroon
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.