YAOUNDE Cameroon police killed two protesters and wounded 10 others on Friday in the latest bout of violence in the English-speaking northwest of the mostly Francophone country, police and political sources told Reuters.
Protests began in November in the northwestern town of Bamenda when lawyers and teachers claimed their rights were being neglected by Cameroon's French-speaking majority. Protests have since spread.
Friday's violence occurred in Ndop, about 40 kilometres to the east. Police opened fire when a crowd of about 100 people descended on the police station, demanding the release of people arrested on suspicion of setting fire to a French-speaking school on Wednesday.
"On Friday morning around 11 a.m., the protesters became more aggressive, the police fired in self-defence and there were two deaths in the clashes. Ten wounded," said a local police commissioner who asked not to be named.
A staff member in the office of the regional governor confirmed the number of dead and wounded.
The violence comes as a rare test for long-standing President Paul Biya, 83, who has ruled Cameroon since 1982.
Police shot dead four protesters in Bamenda in December during a march against the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement.
On Friday, human rights groups raised concerns about a crackdown on protests, including the United Nations, which said that it had reports that an internet blackout in English-speaking northwest and southwest regions was in place since January 17 to counter the protests.
"I am particularly concerned at the tightening of the space for free speech at a time where its promotion and protection should be of the utmost importance," the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, said in a statement.
(Reporting By Sylvain Andzongo,; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Tom Heneghan)