21, November 2023
Armed anglophone separatists early Tuesday killed nine villagers in western Cameroon, the scene of seven years of unrest, officials said.
Cameroon’s primarily English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions have been gripped by conflict since separatists declared independence in 2017.
That followed decades of grievances over perceived discrimination by the country’s francophone majority.
“There are nine dead,” David Dibango, local prefect for the West Region department of Bamboutos, told local radio after the raid on the village of Bamenyam.
The West region borders the restive Northwest.
A police officer confirmed the toll to AFP and blamed “secessionists” who he said had “entered the village on motorcycles the night before”.
“They circulated a message asking the population to remain indoors the following day but those who were not aware of the warning and ventured out became the victims of secessionists,” he added.
Cameroon’s state television said the dead included a woman, adding that two security guards were wounded in a gunbattle. It said the attackers torched several shops.
A local association, the Development Committee of Bamenyam, said three shopkeepers, including an octogenarian, were killed.
Both the separatists and government forces have been accused of atrocities in the fighting.
Armed groups are regularly accused of abducting, killing or injuring civilians whom they accuse of collaborating with Cameroonian authorities.
Security forces are also often accused by international NGOs and the United Nations of killings and torture against civilians suspected of sympathising with the rebels.
In July, Amnesty International reported that security forces, separatist rebels and ethnic militiamen had committed “atrocities” in the Northwest Region, including executions, torture and rape.
President Paul Biya, 90, who has ruled Cameroon with an iron fist for 41 years, has resisted calls for wider autonomy and responded with a crackdown.
The conflict has claimed more than 6,000 lives and forced more than a million people to flee their homes, according to the International Crisis Group.