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Gunmen grab 79 pupils and three staff from school in Cameroon

07 November 2018

At least 78 students and their headteacher have been kidnapped by armed men from their school in Cameroon.

But no single group has said it carried out the kidnapping of the students and the principal at Bamenda's Presbyterian Secondary School, which has pupils aged between 10 and 14.

A video purportedly of the kidnapped children has been released on social media by militants calling themselves the Amba Boys. Cameroon is a country still deeply divided by colonial influences of English and French- some of the English minority support the creation of a separate English state in the West called Ambazonia, and in the past year militias have formed in pursuit of that goal.

The men who identified themselves as the kidnappers said they would only release the children when they attain their goal.

A video of some of the children, believed to have been filmed by one of the kidnappers, is being shared on social media.

The mission school's discipline mistress, Ms Maureen Njei, said the abducted students were both boys and girls.

The school's website says that the student body numbers more than 700, drawn from "all the religious and linguistic origins of Cameroon".

Last week an American missionary was killed after he was caught in the crossfire between separatist fighters and security forces.

The numbers provided by North West Region Governor Deben Tchoffo were larger than his earlier estimate of the people kidnapped in Nkwen, a village near the regional capital, Bamenda.

The turmoil in Cameroon comes after President Paul Biya won a seventh term last month in an election the U.S. said was marked by irregularities.

One of them shouted, how many times have we asked you not to work here again. Biya, who has been in office since 1982, is set to be inaugurated tomorrow. Others have accused pro-government forces of kidnapping the children in order to sully the separatists' reputation.

The government and separatists in the English-speaking region have been accusing each other of being behind the kidnapping.

According to United Nations figures, 246,000 people in the Southwest Region have fled their homes, and 25,000 have sought shelter in neighbouring Nigeria, many of them living hand-to-mouth in the forests.

Around a fifth of Cameroon's 22 million people are English-speaking - a minority whose presence dates back to the colonial period. The Anglophone regions have frequently erupted into violence since late 2016, when a number of English-speaking lawyers protested that a newly passed law wasn't translated from French.

Gunmen grab 79 pupils and three staff from school in Cameroon