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Cameroon Blames Seleka Rebels for Hostage Taking

Cameroonian troops have crossed over to the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) and freed eight of 20 people kidnapped recently by Seleka rebels. The military says no one was killed in the operation. Seleka rebels in the C.A.R. have increasingly resorted to kidnappings and ransom demands to fund their activities.

A confrontation erupted when Cameroonian soldiers blocked armed Seleka fighters from entering the border town of Garoua Boulai. The armed men from the Central African Republic retreated but later crossed back over into Cameroonian territory and kidnapped 20 people.

The governor of East Cameroon, Samuel Dieudonne Ivaha Diboua, told VOA in a telephone interview that some of the captives were seized from a public transport bus.

"In the vehicle we didn't have more than six people so they took all of them," he said. "We got the information and asked our forces to go to the field. So they met them and they [the rebels] started to shoot, two of them escaped at midnight. And we are just asking people to see the [military] forces to give them assistance when they are traveling in the night."

Diboua said although one of the captives, against the wishes of the government, paid $150,000 of the $500,000 requested as ransom, Cameroonian forces crossed over into neighboring C.A.R. and freed eight of the hostages.

The spokesperson for Cameroon's military, Colonel Didier Badjeck, says they are still working on a strategy to liberate the remaining hostages and secure the border with C.A.R. from future armed attacks.

"We still have the situation under control and the population has to be reassured that their security is guaranteed," he said. "We have occupied the field so that the response should be more spontaneous. We have also improved our equipment which has also helped the flexibility and the strength of our units."

VOA asked Colonel Badjeck to comment on newspaper reports that some Cameroonians are collaborating with the Seleka fighters.

"We don't want to imagine at all that the population can connive with our enemy," he said.

Cameroon is also facing disruption on its western border with Nigeria, where the military has clashed in recent months with suspected Boko Haram militants.