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All school kidnapping captives freed, says Cameroon leader

Last Updated Nov 13, 2018 at 9:01 am EST

YAOUNDE, Cameroon – All students and staff abducted more than a week ago from a school in Cameroon’s restive North West region have been freed, a leader of the Presbyterian church said Tuesday.

Two students, the principal and a staff member of Presbyterian Secondary School in the English-speaking northwestern village of Nkwen were released in different intervals, said Fonki Samuel Forba, moderator of the country’s Presbyterian Church.

The kidnappers had previously released 78 students in Bafut, in northwestern Cameroon.

“They are still very tired and stressed, so we cannot discuss with them now to hear how and who brought them to Bafut,” said Forba. “I can authoritatively tell you that we did not pay any ransom to secure their freedom.” He gave no further details.

The 79 students and three staff members were kidnapped by suspected separatists on Nov. 4 in part of Cameroon that has been beset by violence and instability since 2016 when armed English-speaking separatists began a campaign to create a breakaway state, which they call Ambazonia.

Two days after the kidnapping the Cameroonian army announced it had freed 78 of the hostages. The military said it sent an elite corps of soldiers to bring back the children and teachers.

Since the students’ release last week, parents have withdrawn all 700 children from the school, complaining of growing insecurity in the area.

Fighting broke out last year between the military and separatists in Cameroon’s northwestern and southwestern regions after the government clamped down on peaceful demonstrations by English-speaking teachers and lawyers protesting what they said was their marginalization by Cameroon’s French-speaking majority.

Hundreds have been killed in the past year and the separatists have vowed to destabilize the regions. They have attacked civilians who oppose their cause, including teachers who were killed for disobeying orders to keep schools closed.