YAOUNDE - Cameroon says suspected rebels from the Central African Republic have kidnapped 16 people from its territory, including influential local politicians, clergy and businessmen. Although the government says no group has claimed responsibility, it is widely speculated that supporters of rebel leader Abdoulaye Meskine are pressing for his release and that of his fighters who have been arrested and detained in Cameroon.
Governor Samuel Dieudonne Ivaha Diboua of Cameroon's eastern region that shares a boundary with the troubled Central African Republic, says the 16 people including four women were attacked by at least 30 heavily armed men in Babio on March 19. The kidnap victims were returning from the burial of a local official of Cameroon's ruling political party, the Cameroon People's Democratic movement. He says the bus transporting the clergy, politicians and businessmen was seized by the assailants at Midnight and taken to the Central African Republic.
He says after the incident, they increased the military and took all necessary security measures to protect the population and handle any other cases of rebel attack on Cameroonian territory.
Ivaha Diboua said for close to a year, eastern Cameroon has not witnessed attacks from CAR rebels and they believed peace was returning to the troubled nation, but the attack is a sign that the population needs to be vigilant.
He says Garoua Boulaye, like other localities that share a border with the CAR, now needs particular military attention and he is calling on the population to be vigilant and report all suspects and strangers.
Although the governor said no one had claimed responsibility for the attack, it is believed that the kidnappers will seek the release of one of their leaders, Abdoulaye Meskine and 20 others who were arrested in the Cameroonian town of Bertoua and detained in Cameroon.
Abdoulaye Meskine, who leads a group called the Democratic Front of the Central African people, fought the Central African Republic government and led to the overthrow of its president, Francoise Bozize. After falling out with the Seleka and the anti-Balaka rival armed groups, he fled to Cameroon and was arrested two years ago.
Last year, to press for Abdoulaye Meskine's release, his followers kidnapped 15 Cameroonians and a Polish missionary, Mateusz Dzieedzic, who worked in the CAR but fled violence and sought refuge in Cameroon. In one of the attacks, the armed men were disguised as CAR refugees.