YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Militants seeking independence for Cameroon’s English-speaking regions killed four soldiers and two policemen in attacks this week, President Paul Biya said late on Thursday, vowing to eliminate the secessionists as a threat to peace.
Dozens of civilians have been killed since October, after the government cracked down on members of a movement protesting their perceived marginalisation by Cameroon’s Francophone-dominated government.
The repression has driven many into the arms of a once-fringe separatist movement, which has launched a series of deadly raids before presidential elections in 2018.
“I think things are now perfectly clear to everyone. Cameroon is the victim of repeated attacks,” Biya said as he arrived home from a summit of European Union and African leaders in Ivory Coast.
“Faced with these attacks of aggression, I assure the Cameroonian people that all measures are being taken to end these criminals’ ability to do harm,” he said.
Two secessionist leaders confirmed the movement carried out the first raid, late on Tuesday in the town of Mamfe, near the border with Nigeria in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, in which four soldiers were killed.
“One of the main objectives is to clear the checkpoints that they have put on our roads. They are the symbols of occupation,” Ben Kuah, the chairman of the defence wing of the Ambazonian Governing Council (AGC), told a Reuters reporter in Dakar.
The separatists claimed to have looted weapons during the raid.
Ambazonia is the name the separatists have given to the homeland they hope to create.
“We will dismantle all of these military outposts that have been used to prosecute the occupation of our homeland,” said Cho Ayaba, another leading member of the AGC.
Two police officers were killed in a similar attack the following night in the nearby town of Out. Separatist leaders were not immediately available to comment on that raid.
Cameroon’s language divide is a legacy of World War One, when the League of Nations split the former German colony of Kamerun between allied French and British victors. The two entities were reunited following independence.
(Fixes typo in paragraph 5.)
Reporting by Sofia Christensen and Edward McAllister; Editing by Joe Bavier, Larry King, William Maclean