'Separatists' kill two more police in restive Cameroon region: govt
Separatists killed two policemen in the restive English-speaking region of Cameroon, a day after an officer was shot dead there, the government said Wednesday.
Neither of the attacks has been claimed, but the authorities have been swift to blame the escalation on militants demanding that anglophone regions break away from the west African nation.
"Secessionist terrorists killed two gendarmes overnight in Bamenda," government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary told AFP, adding that the attack was carried out "with combat weapons".
The two were on guard duty at the time, one of them outside a micro-loan bank, he said.
The assailants fled with the policemen's guns, said Tchiroma, who is also minister for communications.
Bamenda is the chief town in the Northwest, one of two regions where unrest has broken out among Cameroon's anglophone minority.
On Monday, "suspected separatists" killed a gendarme in Jakiri, about 70 kilometres (45 miles) to the east, while he was pursuing men who attacked a school, according to a local official.
The officer found himself cut off and encircled by the attackers in a forest, the source said.
- Discrimination claims -
French-speaking Cameroon has a large anglophone community which comprises about a fifth of its population of 22 million.
Gathered mainly in two regions, many English speakers say they suffer economic inequality and discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority, particularly in education and justice.
On October 1, a breakaway movement issued a symbolic declaration of independence for their putative state of "Ambazonia," led by Sisiku Ayuk.
President Paul Biya fiercely opposes secession or a return to Cameroon's former federal structure.
The agitation began at the end of 2016 but has met with a crackdown that has alarmed human-rights watchdogs.
At least 14 people have died in clashes, as well as five prisoners who were killed while trying to escape jail, according to a toll compiled by AFP.
International monitors, in contrast, say at least 20 and possibly 40 people have been killed in clashes since late September.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank last month accused Cameroon of embracing a policy of "murderous repression" that, it warned, could lead to an "armed uprising".
The Biya government disputes the claimed death toll and has accused the ICG of being "an agency of destabilisation, in the pay of the secessionist movements."
On October 31, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said thousands of people had fled from the anglophone regions into neighbouring Nigeria, and the agency was bracing for an influx of up to 40,000.
Anglophone secessionists are being backed from abroad by social media outlets calling on the public to form self-defence groups to fight "the occupation forces" and to join protests.
So-called "dead city" demonstrations, in which all activities are supposed to stop, have been taking place on Mondays.
Several businesses, as well as homes and schools, have been torched in previous weeks, in attacks usually attributed to separatists.
But there are also tensions within the anglophone movement, with those advocating a more moderate stance under pressure.
An anglophone leader who advocates federalism, Felix Agbor Nghongo, has been branded a "traitor" by secessionists and thrown out of a campaign group, the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC), which was outlawed in January.
His home in Manfe, in the southwest, was burned down last month after he had called for schools to reopen.
In mid-October, the home of an anglophone legislator, Bernard Forju, was burned by a mob angered by the government's decision to send envoys to the region to seek what it called dialogue.
- Legacy of history -
The anglophone minority in Cameroon is a legacy of the colonial period in Africa.
France and Britain divided up the former German colony under League of Nations mandates after World War I.
A year after the French-ruled territory became independent in 1961, the southern part of British Cameroons was integrated into a federal system, scrapped 11 years later for a "united republic".