More than two dozen people have been killed in one of Cameroon’s restive Anglophone regions, in what appears to have been an operation by government forces against alleged separatists.
One witness said anonymously on Saturday that she had seen 29 bodies — including those of women and young boys — in the town of Menka, in Cameroon’s Anglophone Northwest Region, where armed secessionists have been fighting against the predominantly Francophone central government since last year.
She said at least three bodies were lying outside a school.
The bodies “are rotting already and reek,” she said.
Another source told Reuters that 34 bodies had been discovered on Friday.
The exact circumstances of the deaths were unknown.
A spokesman for the Cameroonian army said in a statement that government forces had been tipped off to the presence of separatists in a hotel in Menka, had been deployed there, and had engaged in a long firefight with elements inside the hotel.
“Several terrorists were neutralized,” the spokesman, Colonel Didier Badjeck, said, without providing further details.
“The people in the village confirmed that there was an exchange of fire, and some bodies were found in the hotel rooms,” said Nji Tumasang, a member of the English-speaking opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF).
Tumasang said that John Fru Ndi, the SDF’s leader who led a delegation to Menka, said local “people do not think they (the deceased) were separatists, but rather criminals.”
Demands for independence by the English-speaking minority in the Anglophone Southwest and Northwest regions of Cameroon have been rejected by the country’s long-time leader, 85-year-old President Paul Biya.
Separatists advocating for the secession of Southwest Region from the Republic of Cameroon declared the establishment of the self-proclaimed “Republic of Ambazonia” in October last year.
Cameroon’s Anglophones make up about a fifth of the country’s population of 22 million.
Both English and French are official languages in Cameroon.