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Cameroon Cracks Down on Armed Youths After Police Station Attacks

Cameroon has arrested hundreds of people who allegedly attacked police stations in the capital Yaounde to protest human rights abuses, brutality and extortion. Huge stashes of locally made guns and explosives have been seized as the arrests continue.

Martin Claude Forsua, the most senior police official in Cameroon's center region, where Yaounde is located, said the approximately 500 youths already in police custody were arrested following tips from some residents of the capital city and information from intelligence services.

Forsua said police have been benefiting from the assistance of the population that has been denouncing suspects. He said it is intolerable to allow such a thing in a capital city like Yaounde and they will arrest all the youths who want to terrorize the city’s residents.

Most of the youths were arrested in night raids on their homes and street corners in their neighborhoods. Police say at least 100 of those detained have no identification documents.

Rights violations alleged

Trader Aristide Biloa, 40, whose younger brother was arrested, said more than 30 soldiers stormed and ransacked their Mokolo home on the night of January 9 without authorization.

Biloa said the arrests have been arbitrary and in violation of human rights. He said proper investigations should have been carried out to determine who the leaders of the group are before any arrests were made.

University of Yaounde law student Josue Penda said arresting the suspects will not solve what he calls an endemic problem in a country that has been suffering from Boko Haram terrorism threats. He said investigations should be conducted to see if the Boko Haram is extending its activities from Cameroon's northern border with Nigeria to the capital Yaounde.

Penda said the fact that some residents of Yaounde now keep guns in their houses means the police department is a corrupt accomplice and is not doing its job. He said the government should investigate the origin of the weapons.

The arrests follow last Thursday's attacks by hundreds of disgruntled and armed Cameroonian young people on police stations in Mokolo, a popular market in Yaounde. The youths said they were against police brutality, extortion and other human rights abuses, but the police said the youths were looking for revenge after the death of a popular suspect who died in a shootout with the police.