79 abducted pupils freed in troubled Cameroon region

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Parents await for news of their children at a school where 79 pupils were kidnapped in Bamenda, Cameroon November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Blaise Eyong

Seventy-nine school pupils abducted by gunmen this week in a troubled English-speaking region of Cameroon have been freed, the country’s communications minister told AFP Wednesday.

“All 79 students have been released,” said Issa Bakary Tchiroma, without giving details of the circumstances under which they were set free.

The kidnappings on Monday were the first such mass abductions seen in Cameroon and coincide with an upsurge of political tensions in the majority French-speaking country.

The students were enrolled at the Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda, capital of Cameroon’s Northwest Region — one of two areas where surging anglophone separatist militancy has been met with a brutal crackdown by authorities.

Their release comes a day after Cameroon’s 85-year-old President Paul Biya was sworn in for a seventh term in office.

Biya has promised to pursue policies of decentralisation to address “frustrations and aspirations” in English-speaking regions.

A six-minute video seen by AFP on Monday, but which could not be confirmed independently, showed 11 boys apparently aged about 15 giving their identity and name of the school in English, and adding that they were abducted by the “Amba Boys” — a name for anglophone separatists.