At least 30 people have been abducted by suspected separatists in a troubled English-speaking region of western Cameroon, local sources said on Wednesday.
“More than 30 people were kidnapped yesterday on the road between Buea and Kumba” in the Southwest Region, a source close to the authorities there said, confirming an account by a local NGO.
Since October 2017, the Southwest and neighbouring Northwest Region have been in the grip of an armed revolt by anglophones demanding independence from the majority French-speaking country.
The people were kidnapped after suspected separatists attacked buses plying the highway, one of the most dangerous roads in the country, one of the sources said.
Ransom kidnappings and extortion have proliferated in the two regions, along with attacks on troops and police, plus arson assaults on public buildings and schools.
The government has responded with a crackdown, deploying thousands of soldiers.
More than 200 members of the security forces and at least 500 civilians have been killed since, according to the International Crisis Group think-tank.
According to UN estimates, more than 437,000 people have fled their homes.
The Northwest and Southwest regions were previously ruled by Britain as the Southern Cameroons.
They became incorporated into Cameroon in October 1961, 22 months after France granted the country independence.
Over the years, anglophones have chafed at perceived discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority, especially in law, education and economic opportunities.
Demands for greater autonomy or a return to Cameroon’s federal structure were rejected by the central government in Yaounde.
Radicals became ascendant in the anglophone movement, leading to the declaration of the self-described Republic of Ambazonia on October 1, 2017, which has never been recognised internationally.