YAOUNDE, Nov. 21 — Security forces were searching for the 15 school children and a teacher abducted Tuesday morning in crisis-hit southwestern Cameroon, a local government source told Xinhua on Tuesday.
According to a witness, the kidnapping took place in a private school in Kumba in the Meme division of the Southwest, one of the two war-torn English-speaking regions of Cameroon. Local authorities confirmed the abduction, but said the number of those kidnapped was still unknown.
“Gunmen came to the school in the morning and asked the children to queue. They started trekking with them to an unknown destination. They fired guns in the air as they left,” a local resident who declined to disclose his identity told Xinhua.
Chamberlin Ntou’ou Ndong, senior divisional officer for Meme division, said the military had begun a “thorough search” for the children.
The Cameroonian government is tracing the incident, Cameroon’s minister of communication and government spokesperson, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, told Xinhua by telephone.
No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction.
It was the second abduction of students this month in Cameroon’s troubled Anglophone zone, where armed separatists have ordered the closure of schools in the regions.
In early November, the government accused separatists of kidnapping 79 children of a private school in the Northwest. They were released a few days later. Separatists, however, insisted that most of the kidnappings were staged by the government to tarnish their image internationally.
Local authorities said separatists had torched more than 100 schools that refused to close.
Since November last year, government forces have been clashing with armed separatist forces who want the two regions to secede from the majority French-speaking nation and form a new country called “Ambazonia”.