By Aurore Bonny
DOUALA, Cameroon (AA) - Around 15 soldiers and several civilians died in two attacks in English-speaking areas of Cameroon plagued by a separatist crisis, the Ministry of Defense said Monday.
"On the evening of Thursday, September 16, 2021, a convoy of the 6th Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) on a reconnaissance mission was the target of an ambush by heavily armed terrorists" in the locality of Bamessing in the North West region, according to a note signed by Atonfack Nguemo Cyril Serge, the spokesman for the Cameroonian army.
He also cited a previous attack on Sept. 12 during which a military convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) at Kumbo in the same region.
"The cumulative toll of these attacks is about 15 soldiers and several civilians killed, as well as three vehicles damaged," he said.
Those attacks were carried out "in defiance of international humanitarian law" and were "unspeakably barbaric" in terms of the use of civilians as "human shields" as well as the "camouflage" in the said populations and the "use of high explosives against the defense forces,” he added.
Cameroon's North West and South West regions are English-speaking areas that have been in the grip of a secessionist crisis since 2016.
"The secessionist terrorists," according to the Ministry of Defense, have established links with “exogenous violent fundamentalist groups.”
This bilingual country in Central Africa has a population of more than 27 million, with a 20% English-speaking minority that claims to be marginalized. Anglophone people are divided between those who want federalism and those who want secession as a form of independence.
This unresolved crisis has turned into a theater of criminality where the military deployed in the North West and South West are engaged in fighting against armed separatists.
There are several consistent reports of thousands of deaths as well as several hundred thousand externally displaced persons and over 700,000 internally displaced persons.
Several crimes against humanity such as killings, rapes and abductions have also been documented by human rights organizations.
"The violence committed by both the security forces and armed separatists in the North West and South West regions has caused a major humanitarian crisis in Cameroon," said Human Rights Watch (HRW).