Cameroon’s military on Thursday said “many have been killed” in fighting with Anglophone separatists after launching attacks the day after President Paul Biya was declared the winner of a seventh term.
Biya has called the separatists “terrorists,” and fighting since last year has killed hundreds of people.
The military launched simultaneous attacks on Tuesday against at least seven suspected training grounds in the Northwest region, with fighting reported in villages in Bui, Mezam, Donga Mantung and Ngoketungia administrative areas, authorities and residents said.
An Associated Press reporter saw at least 18 corpses. Ngarum resident Tata Leslie said he counted 15 dead.
“The military attacked on the early hours of Tuesday and the fighting continued for over 24 hours,” he said.
Leslie said there were fears that residents have been caught up in the killings and arrests. “The military mounted checkpoints and controlled everyone coming in or going out. Many people have escaped to the bushes,” he said.
Gen. Agha Robinson, who commanded the troops staging the raids, said “many have been killed” but did not give details. The military freed some hostages and seized weapons and motorcycles, he said.
Local media reported that at least 30 suspected armed fighters were killed along with an unknown number of soldiers. Many villages were deserted, with many houses torched.
Residents accused the military of burning homes.
“We have to free the population from the bondage and pain inflicted on them by the armed gangs. Our people cannot continue to live in fear,” Northwest regional Governor said.
Fighting between the military and separatists began last year when the government clamped down on peaceful demonstrations in Anglophone regions by English-speaking teachers and lawyers protesting what they called marginalization by Cameroon’s French-speaking majority.
Armed factions emerged after the government crackdown and have been using violence to push for independence.