NEWS
07/11/2018 10:28 GMT

Schoolchildren Kidnapped By Armed Men In Cameroon Released

Three staff members remain in captivity.

Reuters

Students kidnapped in west Cameroon have been freed, according to officials.

The 79 children, aged 11-17, and three staff members at Presbyterian school were seized early on Sunday in Bamenda, the region’s capital.

A principal and one teacher are still being held by the armed men that took them, a priest conducting negotiations said.

A video allegedly showing some of the kidnapped students has been shared on social media, causing widespread concern.

An Anglophone separatist movement has been operating in the north west and south west regions of Cameroon over the past year.

The circumstances of the students’ release is unclear, but authorities say they are being questioned before being released to their parents.

“Praise God 78 children and the driver have been released. The principal and one teacher are still with the kidnappers. Let us keep praying,” said Samuel Fonki, a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, according to Reuters.

He also confirmed that one other child had escaped earlier.

Fonki had earlier said that 11 school children were kidnapped by the same armed group on 31 October, then released after the school paid a ransom of 2.5 million CFA francs ($4,400).

According to Reuters, Cameroon’s separatist movement became violent in 2017 after a government crackdown on initially peaceful demonstrations by English-speakers. The linguistic divide is a legacy of a former German colony in central Africa that was divided between allies France and Britain at the end of World War One.

The attack on children, which recalled the 2014 abduction of more than 200 girls by Islamist Militant group Boko Haram in Chibok in neighbouring Nigeria, has been heavily condemned by various human rights organisations.