Gunmen in Cameroon have kidnapped 80 students and their principal from a Presbyterian school in the country’s restive northwestern region.
A video of the kidnapped children was released on social media in which the kidnappers identify themselves as “Amba boys,” a reference to the English-speaking region of Ambazonia where armed separatists are fighting for independence.
Students in the video appear frightened and sit in a dark room constructed with locally made bricks. The kidnappers force several students to give their names and the names of their parents.
The kidnappers say the children can return to school only when the gunmen have achieved their dream of independence.
Governor Deben Tchoffo confirmed the kidnapping in the village of Nkwen in Bamenda, capital of the English-speaking region of the country. He said the military is doing everything possible to bring the children home safely.
“The state, the government, will not surrender. We are going to make sure the students, the people that were abducted, are brought back to the classrooms.”
Sixteen-year-old student Ericka Lum said the gunmen arrived early Monday at the students’ dorm rooms.
“They knocked on our doors, so we felt that maybe it was our classmates from other dormitories. So, somebody went and opened the door,” he said.
Lum said the kidnappers were at the door and pointed guns at the students, who tried to hide under their beds.
School discipline mistress Maureen Njei said the attackers took students from the boys’ and girls’ dormitories.
In September, separatists abducted six students from the Presbyterian School of Science and Technology in Bafut, near Bamenda, and later freed them after their families paid a ransom.
Conflicts began in the English-speaking northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon in 2016 when teachers and lawyers complained of discrimination from the French-speaking majority in education and the justice system.
The government responded with a crackdown, and separatists responded with violence.
The separatists have burned schools and forced other schools to close, saying they are a part of a French-speaking education system that marginalizes anglophone students.
Moki Edwin Kindzeka contributed to this report.