Thirty-six passengers were abducted by gunmen on Tuesday along the Buea-Kumba highway in the Southwest, one of the two war-torn English-speaking regions of Cameroon, according to locals.
“Two transport buses left Kumba for Buea and were stopped at Ediki village by gunmen. All passengers were ordered to step down and hand over their identification cards. They were then taken to the bush to an unknown destination. The bus drivers were ordered to return to the bus stop in Kumba,” Samuel Asong, a driver who witnessed the incident, told Xinhua. Movement along the highway has been halted and the search for the hostages has been launched, according to local authorities. Cases of kidnapping are on the rise amid escalating conflict in the troubled English-speaking regions of the largely French-speaking African country.
In November, a group of 79 school children was kidnapped in Bamenda, the most populous city of Northwest, another English-speaking region. The Cameroonian government has blamed armed separatists for the rampant abductions but the separatists insist they are staged by government to tarnish their “struggle for independence” internationally.
The United Nations estimates that more than 430,000 people have been displaced internally since government forces started clashing with armed separatists in November 2017. The separatists are fighting to secede from Cameroon and create a nation called “Ambazonia” in the two Anglophone regions of Northwest and Southwest.