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Cameroon's French-English Divide Flares Up

Hundreds of youths run through the streets of Ekona, cheering, waving palm fronds, and holding signs demanding independence in this image taken from video, Sept. 22, 2017.

Anti-government protests broke out Friday in Cameroon's two English-speaking regions. The demonstrators echoed calls from separatist groups for Cameroon's southwest and northwest to break away from French-speaking regions and form their own state.

Meanwhile, local media reported an explosion in the economic capital of Douala. The blast followed a bombing in the northwestern town of Bamenda on Thursday that seriously injured three policemen.

No one has claimed responsibility for either incident, but suspicion is falling on a movement that calls itself the Liberation Front for English-speaking Cameroon.

Groups that say they are part of the movement have claimed responsibility for burning down schools in the northwest over the past two weeks.

The governor of the northwest region, Adolph Lele Lafrique Deben Tchoffo, told VOA the perpetrators are believed to have triggered Thursday's bombing using a mobile phone.

"We have witnessed a terrorist act in Bamenda targeting … police that were doing their job," Tchoffo said. "As a result of that, we are going to step up our security device to face that new situation."

Anglophone teachers and lawyers went on strike in the northwest and southwest in November, demanding reforms to address the predominance of French in the bilingual country.

However, calls for full independence soon eclipsed those original demands amid a government crackdown.

Militant separatist groups have been displaying the blue and white flag of a new nation they call Ambazonia.

Earlier this month, President Paul Biya ordered the release of 55 strike detainees in a bid to reopen dialogue and defuse the growing tensions.

However, the president has said he will engage in no talks that threaten national unity.

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