Dozens killed in Cameroon’s restive Anglophone region

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YAOUNDE, May 26 (Reuters) – More than two dozen people have
been killed in one of Cameroon’s Anglophone regions, local
sources said on Saturday, although the exact circumstances of
their deaths were not immediately clear.

The incident in the town of Menka in Cameroon’s Northwest
Region is one of the deadliest since armed secessionists from
the English-speaking minority launched an insurrection last year
against the predominantly Francophone central government.

Agbor Balla Nkongho, a local human rights lawyer and
activist, told Reuters that at least 34 bodies were found on
Friday in Menka. He declined to say who had killed them.

Another local source who visited Menka on Saturday and asked
not to be named said she saw a total of 29 bodies, including
three outside a school, riddled with gunshot wounds. Some were
women and others boys as young as 13, she said.

The bodies “are rotting already and reek,” she said.

Army spokesman Colonel Didier Badjeck said in a statement to
local media that government troops surrounded a hotel in Menka
on Friday morning after they were tipped off to the presence of
separatist rebels.

A long firefight ensued and “several terrorists were
neutralised”, Badjeck said, without providing further details.

A representative for the separatists did not immediately
respond to a request for comment.

Armed conflict erupted last year in Cameroon’s Anglophone
Northwest and Southwest Regions after the government violently
repressed peaceful protests begun in 2016 against perceived
marginalisation of English speakers.

Cameroon’s linguistic divide harks back to the end of World
War One, when the League of Nations divided the former German
colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors.

Dozens of people have been killed since late last year –
including more than 20 soldiers and police ambushed by the
separatists – and tens of thousands of refugees have fled to
neighbouring Nigeria.

The United States and rights groups have accused the Yaounde
government of burning down villages and carrying out targeted
killings in the Anglophone regions, charges the government has
angrily denied.

The latest violence comes just months ahead of an election
in which President Paul Biya, who has ruled the Central African
oil producer for the last 35 years, is expected to stand for a
fresh term.