Cameroon leader Paul Biya’s inauguration overshadowed by mass kidnapping

80 people, mostly school children, kidnapped in Cameroon

81 people, mostly school children, kidnapped in Cameroon

The separatists have imposed curfews and closed down schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya's French-speaking government.

Seventy-nine school pupils abducted by gunmen on Monday have been freed.

The 79 children, their principal, and a driver, were taken into the bush outside the town, military and government sources said, and the army has started a rescue operation. Between February 2017 and May 2018, for example, at least 42 schools in the regions were attacked, including 36 that were damaged by arson attacks, 11 damaged by other types of attacks, as well as two school buses burnt down and various harassments and attacks on students and teachers. Cameroon is a country still deeply divided by colonial influences of English and French- some of the English minority support the creation of a separate English state in the West called Ambazonia, and in the previous year militias have formed in pursuit of that goal.

The US State Department condemned the kidnappings and called for the immediate safe return of students and staff.

Some 107 girls have since been released or found, but the Islamist group abducted scores more schoolgirls from neighbouring Yobe state in February this year.

The students were enrolled at the Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda, one of two areas where surging anglophone separatist militancy has been met with a brutal crackdown by authorities. "You will be going to school now here".

Elsewhere in the region, a high-ranking local official was also seized, a security official told AFP.

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Dozens of students were kidnapped from a Presbyterian school in Cameroon.

Mr Biya was credited with 71.3pc of the vote, although the ballot was marred by allegations of widespread fraud, low voter turnout and violence.

The government was accused of relying heavily on people trained in the French legal and educational tradition to work in key posts and generally marginalising Cameroon's English-speaking minority, who make up about 20% of the population. Militias have been trying to get the regions to secede from Cameroon.

But resentment at perceived discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority, especially in education and the judiciary, began to build.

In 2016, demands for greater autonomy grew but have been rebuffed by Biya.

"We urge an immediate halt to the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and burning of houses by Cameroonian government forces and to attacks perpetrated by. anglophone separatists", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

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