Authorities in Cameroon say weapons traffickers arrested last week in Nigeria have been arming Cameroon's Anglophone separatists.
Cameroon’s military said Thursday that some of the 40 arms traffickers arrested by police in Nigeria last week are regular suppliers of weapons to rebel groups in Cameroon.
The 40 were arrested in the Nigerian border town of Ikom and charged with various crimes, including supplying guns, ammunition and explosives to separatists.
Separatists have been fighting to create an English-speaking state in the western regions of Cameroon, a majority Francophone country, since 2017.
Frank Mba, the Nigerian Police Force public relations officer, said some of the weapons intercepted were destined for the separatists.
"The suspect, in this case Ntui Lambert, was arrested in Ikom in Cross River state while trying to smuggle or traffic these explosives to Cameroon. He is believed to be working with some secessionist groups in Cameroon. This is not his first time supplying them with dynamites and other arms-related items," Mba said.
In an interview broadcast by Cameroon state television, Mba said 13 AK-47 rifles, 750 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, and 58 packages of explosives suspected to be dynamite were seized.
He said criminal gangs and separatist groups in Cameroon and Nigeria use dynamite to attack government troops.
The 40 suspects have been charged with terrorism funding, arms trafficking, cybercrimes and abductions.
Thirty-six-year old suspect Ntui Lambert told local media he is a trafficker. He said his father is Cameroonian and his mother Nigerian.
"I was arrested in possession of dynamites, explosives and live ammunition of AK-47, with a Thuraya phone. They arrested me alongside three others. The people [police] that arrested me transferred me to Owerri and from Owerri, they [the police] sent me to Abuja," he said.
Lambert did not say whether the weapons were destined for Cameroonian separatist groups.
Authorities suspect the arms were meant for the main separatist group, the Ambazonia Defense Forces.
ADF deputy defense chief Capo Daniel said the group is not intimidated by the arrests.
"If the Nigerian government and the Cameroonian government think that they are going to stop us from trafficking weapons and affect our ability to liberate and defend our people, this collaboration between Cameroon and Nigeria will fail woefully," Daniel said.
Cameroonian and Nigerian authorities who met in the Nigerian capital Abuja last week agreed to jointly fight armed separatists in both countries.
Officials from the two countries said Anglophone separatists in Cameroon and the Indigenous People of Biafra, a group that wants a breakaway state in southeast Nigeria, are joining forces to fight for the independence of their respective regions.