La Republique: Gunmen kill one, kidnap 22 0

Gunmen thought to have crossed the border from violence-racked Central African Republic attacked civilians in a remote part of Cameroon, killing one and carrying off 22, a local government official said on Wednesday. Banditry is a long-standing problem in eastern Cameroon, but armed attacks and kidnapping for ransom have become much more frequent in the last two years as civil conflict has intensified across the border in Central African Republic.

Armed bandits have taken advantage of insecurity in Central African Republic to loot homes and kidnap children, fuelling calls from human rights organisations including Amnesty International, for a United Nations force to protect civilians there. The latest attacks in Cameroon happened on Sunday in the isolated localities of Landou and Ouro Kessoum, Jean Kalandi, sub-prefect of Rey-Bouba in northeastern Cameroon, said on state radio.

“The armed bandits attacked shortly before midnight on the fateful day. They ransacked houses, looted food items and took away any valuable property they could carry,” Kalandi said. “They were well armed with very modern weapons, killed one person and took away 22 others as hostages to an unknown destination. We suspect these kidnappers are either highway robbers or rebels from CAR who have been harassing our people living along our common frontier,” he said.

A week earlier gunmen had taken 15 people hostage in a similar attack in the same area, but the victims managed to escape when their captors got drunk and fell asleep, Kalandi said. Kalandi gave no details about the victims of the latest attacks, and could not immediately be reached by phone from the capital Yaounde. Kidnappers often target the nomadic cattle-herding Mbororo people, who have a reputation for wealth and sometimes pay millions of CFA francs to free their relatives. Cameroon has recently deployed large numbers of its Rapid Intervention Brigade to combat insecurity in the east, but they are hampered by poor roads along the 600 km (375 mile) border.

Central African Republic has suffered years of conflict. In the north-west, which borders Cameroon, government forces have burned scores of villages in the past two years in the hunt for rebel fighters, leaving displaced villagers and nomadic herders vulnerable to armed bandits known locally as Zaraguinas. A northeastern revolt mounted last year from Sudan’s violent Darfur province was eventually repulsed with the help of fighter jets and special forces from former colonial power France.

Source: IOL