Cameroon Army Explains Massacre In Anglophone Region
Feb. 18, 2020
Cameroon’s army on Monday explained the incident in which 22 civilians were killed in the Northwest region, described it as an “unfortunate accident” caused by an explosion of fuel during a firefight.
Opposition parties had accused the army of orchestrating a massacre, but army spokesman Colonel Cyrille Atonfack Guemo described the allegations as “duplicitous”.
The United Nations said up to 22 civilians, 14 of them children, died in Friday’s incident, which happened in in the village of Ntumbo in Cameroon’s Northwest Region, one of two English-speaking regions that have been grappling with separatist violence since October 2017.
An army investigation, he said, found that the deaths happened after fuel was set ablaze during a gunfight with anglophone separatists.
Five civilians, a woman and four children, died, and “seven terrorists” were “neutralised”, Atonfack told AFP in Libreville by phone.
More than 3,000 people have died and at least 700,000 have fled their homes.
“It was quite simply an unfortunate accident, the collateral result of security operations in the region,” Atonfack said in a statement.
He said four soldiers and two gendarmes had been carrying out nighttime reconnaissance on foot near a home that had been “transformed into a fortress” with a stockpile of weapons.
They came under heavy fire, and exchanges caused “several containers of fuel to explode, followed by a blaze which spread several neighbouring homes”, Atonfack said.
Defense Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Rene Claude Meke said told state broadcaster CRTV the military has been professional in its fight against the separatists.
“We need of the support of the population in these difficult moments,” he said. “They should come to us, inform us and strictly respect orders and advice we give to them so that this crisis which has overstayed should come to an end.”
On Sunday, James Nunan, a local official with UN humanitarian coordination agency OCHA, told AFP that “armed men” had killed as many as 22 civilians, including a pregnant woman and 14 young children.
Eleven of the children were girls, said Nunan, head of OCHA’s office for the Northwest and Southwest regions.
Aid workers contacted by AFP said witnesses had told them that between 40 and 50 armed men, some wearing army uniform and some wearing masks, entered Ngarbuh, a district of the village, before shooting inhabitants dead and burning them.
“They fired on people and burned victims, their bodies are in a terrible state,” said an aid worker, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“People phoned us to say that soldiers had come and smashed down doors, opened fire on people and set homes on fire,” Ntumbo resident Louis Panlanjo, a member of a local association, told AFP.
“People took shelter in the centre of the village. There was about 800 of them.”
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