The attack took place at night in the village of Egbekaw, West Cameroon, which has been the scene of deadly clashes between rebels and government forces for seven years.
“There were men, women and children, more than 20 killed,” Minister Mengo Victor Arei-Nkongo told public radio, quoted by AFP, BGNES reported.
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The conflict in Cameroon
Cameroon’s predominantly English-speaking northwest and southwest regions have been wracked by conflict since separatists declared independence in 2017.
This came after decades of dissatisfaction with discrimination by the French-speaking majority.
In the middle of the night, the “terrorists” opened fire with pistols and used “conventional weapons,” department prefect Manyu Wiang Mekala said on radio. “There are about 20 dead and seven seriously injured, a dozen houses have been burned,” he added.
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“It happened at 4:00 in the morning. Armed youths came and shot sleeping residents in their houses and set fire to a whole block of houses,” said a resident who did not want to be identified for security reasons. “Twenty-three people have already been pulled from the wreckage, some of them not even recognized because of the fire.” He added that a meeting of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (KNDD) was planned in the area.
President Paul Biya, 90, who has ruled the central African country with an iron fist for 41 years, has resisted calls for greater autonomy and responded with repression.
Over 6,000 victims over the years
According to the International Crisis Group, the conflict has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people and forced more than one million people to leave their homes.
Both separatists and government forces have been accused of atrocities during the fighting.
Armed groups are regularly accused of abducting, killing or injuring civilians allegedly because of their “collaboration” with the Cameroonian authorities.
International NGOs and the United Nations also frequently accuse security forces of killing and torturing civilians suspected of sympathizing with the rebels.
Last month, rebels publicly executed two villagers in the northwestern region whom they accused of collaborating with the army.
In July, Amnesty International reported that security forces, separatist rebels and ethnic militias had committed “atrocities” in the northwestern region, including executions, torture and rape.