79 kidnapped Cameroon students freed, says church official

YAOUNDE, Nov 8: The 79 students kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from a school in Cameroon have been released, but two of the three staff members abducted with them are still being held, a church official said on Wednesday.
The students, aged between 11 and 17, were brought to a church near the regional capital of Bamenda, said Fonki Samuel Forba, moderator of the country’s Presbyterian Church.
“They look tired and psychologically tortured,” he said.
Forba pleaded with the kidnappers to free the remaining captives.
The students were abducted on November 4 night in part of Cameroon that is beset by violence and instability by armed separatists who want to create a breakaway state called Ambazonia.
Fighting between the military and separatists in the northwestern and southwestern regions increased after the government clamped down on peaceful demonstrations by English-speaking teachers and lawyers protesting what they said was their marginalisation by Cameroon’s French-speaking majority.
Forba said that parents and guardians of the students at the boarding school where the abductions occurred were asked to take them home.
“It is unfortunate we have to close the school and send home 700 children,” he said. “Their security is not assured by the state and armed groups constantly attack and kidnap them.”
A previous kidnapping from the school was resolved when the church paid a ransom of 2.5 million francs (about $4,000) to the armed gang.
“We can no longer continue,” he said.
The group taken on Sunday was the largest number abducted at one time in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. The separatists also have set fire to at least 100 schools and driven out students and teachers from buildings taken over as training grounds.
North West regional Gov. Deben Tchoffo said this week the government is providing adequate security for schools. (Agencies)