The Catholic Church reported that five priests, a nun, and two churchgoers were abducted by assailants who also set a church on fire in western Cameroon.
This is the most recent act of violence in a region that has seen brutal strife between Anglophone rebels and the state. The Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference said that “unknown armed persons” torched the church of St. Mary in the village of Nchang during the attack on Friday.
“It was with great shock and utter horror that we, the Bishops (of the BAPEC) learnt of the burning down of the St Mary’s Catholic Church, Nchang… and the kidnapping of five priests, one religious sister and two lay faithful by unknown gunmen,” the statement said.Bishops
“This act was completely unprecedented and, as of now, no concrete reason has been given for this heinous act against the house of God and the messengers of God”. He said.
Although the attack has not yet been claimed, separatist organizations frequently carry out these attacks, which frequently end with the release of hostages following requests for ransom or negotiations with local authorities.
Anglophone rebels and the government have been engaged in a deadly battle in Cameroon’s North and South West regions for years.
In the largely French-speaking Cameroon that President Paul Biya has ruled with an iron fist since 1982, the majority of the population is English-speaking.
The “Federal Republic of Ambazonia,” an unrecognized state, was declared independent in 2017 as a result of growing Anglophone dissatisfaction over alleged discrimination. T
he 89-year-old Biya has resisted requests for greater regional autonomy and in response has cracked down on the separatists.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank estimates that more than 6,000 people have died and more than a million have been displaced as a result of the violence.
Both sides have engaged in violations, including crimes against civilians, according to international observers and the United Nations. Six people were slain last week in a bus attack in the country’s west.