Anglophone separatists in Cameroon have claimed responsibility for an attack Wednesday that killed seven people, including a senior official and a mayor. Cameroon’s military says the officials were on a tour to raise support against the rebels when a homemade bomb hit their car.
The government said the explosive device hit the officials' car in Bekora village in the Ekondo Titi district of Cameroon's English-speaking South-West region. The government says six officials, including Timothee Aboloa, highest government official in Ekondo Titi, Nanji Kenneth, mayor of Ekondo Titi and Ebeku William, the Ekondo Titi president of Cameroon’s ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement party, died on the spot.
Cameroon's military said after the device exploded, separatist fighters hiding in a nearby bush started shooting.
Bernard Okalia Bilai is the governor of the South-West region. Bilai said several government troops sustained injuries, and a military official died while being rushed to a local hospital by the military. Bilai spoke during a press conference broadcast by local media including Cameroon state broadcaster CRTV.
"All the six occupants of the car died. The other forces of law and order [military] who were in the pickup following the [officials'] car was wounded. One young officer, a lieutenant, was wounded, and he too passed away. So, in that attack we have lost seven persons,” he said.
Bilai said the officials were on a meet-the-people tour of Ekondo Titi. He said during the tour, the officials were expected to educate civilians on braving separatists and relaunch economic activities in their towns and villages. Bilai said the officials were also asking civilians to report suspected fighters hiding in their towns and villages.
Cameroon’s military on Thursday said troops were deployed to Ekondo Titi shortly after the explosion. The military said the troops will track and arrest or kill the fighters should government troops face any resistance from the rebels.
Capo Daniel is the deputy defense chief of staff for the Ambazonia Defense Forces, said to be the largest separatist group in Cameroon.
Capo said separatists regret that one fighter has been missing since Wednesday’s attack. He said no fighter was wounded and none were killed by government troops in the Ekondo Titi attack, as reported by Cameroon military. Capo spoke to VOA via a messaging app.
“This operation is part of our liberation operations to end the Cameroon occupation and rule of Ambazonia territory. The divisional officer is in charge of coordinating Cameroon’s military operations and Cameroon’s occupation of Ambazonia territory. We will continue to battle and resist Cameroon rule of Ambazonia until the last Cameroon military is booted out of our territory,” he said.
Cameroon separatists have been fighting since 2017 to carve out an independent English-speaking state in the majority French-speaking Cameroon. The separatists say their state will be called Ambazonia.
Fighters have vowed to attack any worker sent by the central government in Yaounde to the English-speaking western regions. The separatists say they will continue attacking government offices and staff until the central government withdraws its troops from the troubled Anglophone regions.
The United Nations says the conflict has left more than 3,500 people dead and 750,000 displaced.