Suspected secessionists in Cameroon have kidnapped dozens of pupils from a boarding school, in an attack reminiscent of Boko Haram’s 2014 abduction of schoolgirls in Nigeria.
Attackers arrived at Presbyterian secondary school Nkwen in Bamenda, the capital of the English-speaking north-west region, on Sunday night.
They kidnapped more than 80 people, including the principal, a teacher and a driver, as well as 79 students, according to the regional administrator.
A teacher who lived by the school said he heard sounds of an attack but did not venture out, fearing for his safety.
“I heard a strong sound at night, like that of a gun. I was scared,” said Julius Nyamboli. “We quickly switched off the lights and went to bed. In the morning, I saw many people returning from campus with doubtful faces. I quickly rushed there and realised that students were not on campus.”
It is unclear how the students were taken away. The school is on a hill and surrounded by a forest – a preferred hideout for secessionists.
Sources say the kidnappers have not yet asked for any ransom, but want the school to send the remaining students home before they release the abductees.
Most schools in English-speaking Cameroon have been; shut down since December 2016, when an uprising began. Authorities’ violent crackdown on peaceful protesters demonstrating about the use of French in classrooms and courts in the English-speaking; regions escalated the crisis, and rebel groups are; now pitted against the army. Tens of thousands of people have been; displaced and many more live in fear.
The schools that are still functioning have been doing so under threats, which pushed many Christian schools to host displaced students from other schools, as was the case with Nkwen.
A similar incident took place in September in nearby Bafut, where nine students were; kidnapped from another Presbyterian-owned boarding school; by suspected secessionists, as the academic year started.
The students spent three days in captivity, after which, according to family members, they were; released on ransoms of 1m CFA francs (£1,330).