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Cameroon Separatists Attack Bus, Kill 6 Civilians

Bangourain, Cameroon
Bangourain, Cameroon

Military officials in Cameroon say armed separatists killed at least six people and wounded nine when they attacked a bus on a highway in the country's troubled Southwest region.

The military has deployed scores of troops to track down the rebels. Locals say there has been heavy fighting between the two sides since the Tuesday attack.

These are voices of Cameroon government troops pulling people out of a bus, asking what could have prompted separatist fighters to kill innocent commuters.

In the video, widely circulated on social media platforms including Facebook and WhatsApp, the men in military gear say they have removed four bodies from the bus.

The Cameroon military has confirmed that the video is of its troops helping victims after separatists opened fire Tuesday on a bus at Ekona, a village in Cameroon’s Southwest region.

The military says four people died on the spot, while two died on their way to a hospital in Buea, capital of the Southwest region. It says fighters disappeared into the bush and villages after the attack. The military says troops have been deployed and the shooters are wanted dead or alive.

Austin Ebai is a commuter. He says there has been heavy shooting since government troops arrived in Ekona on Tuesday. He spoke to VOA Wednesday by the messaging app Whatsapp.

He says no one has been able to travel from Douala, Limbe and Buea to Kumba because, midway at Ekona village, there is serious fighting between government troops and separatists. He says civilians in Ekona have not had the courage to go out of their houses since Tuesday afternoon because of the intensity of the fighting and noise of gunshots from both government troops and separatist fighters.

Bernard Okalia Bilai is the governor of Cameroon's Southwest region. He says the troops are out to maintain peace and make sure civilians go about their daily chores unperturbed.

Bilai spoke on Cameroon's state radio CRTV noting “we must remain vigilant because it is a daily challenge. Continue the fight until the entire population help us to lay hands on all those who are still moving around with guns."

Separatists have said on social media that the bus was attacked for disobeying instructions that all business and travel must be shut down to protest Monday’s reopening of schools in Cameroon.

Capo Daniel is deputy defense chief of the Ambazonia Defense Forces, ADF, one of the separatist groups. He says besides Ekona, separatists also attacked and killed two people in Bamenda, capital of the English-speaking Northwest region on Tuesday.

Daniel denounced the attacks, which he suggested are the work of separatist splinter groups. "We condemn these attacks in Ekona and in Mile Four Bamenda. Any use of excessive force is considered a crime against the Ambazonia people. We will investigate, we will identify the perpetrators of these crimes and we will bring them to book. We have also rejected the unjustified lockdown being imposed by a small faction of the Ambazonia Liberation Movement."

The separatist groups say they are fighting to liberate the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions from the rest of Cameroon and its French-speaking majority.

The war started in 2017, after English-speakers protested the domination of French in Cameroon state institutions.