YAOUNDE - Several villages are said to have been set ablaze in Cameroon's English speaking southwestern town of Mamfe after armed separatists attacked military installations and killed four soldiers. The Cameroon government says it has seized three of the armed separatists' training camps.
Cameroon communication minister and government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma says for the past two weeks, military and armed separatist groups have been involved in bloody conflicts in the English speaking southwestern town of Mamfe on the border with Nigeria.
"Several suspects have been arrested, large quantities of war and hunting weapons as well as hundreds of military ammunition and uniforms have also been seized," Tchiroma said. "One of those attacks has unfortunately claimed the lives of four of our gendarmes who were cold bloodedly killed this Monday December 18 in Kembong, Eyumojock sub division in Manyu division."
Thchiroma refused to give the number of armed separatists killed by security forces in ensuing clashes, but disclosed that at least three border villages that hosted training camps for the fighters had been liberated.
Villagers say there has been an unprecedented harsh crackdown by the military, which also used helicopters to fire on civilians.
Kembong resident Victor Arrey Ndip says his village and two others have been completely destroyed by the fighting and many people are dying.
"They have bumped three villages so every body should be very careful with what is happening on the ground now," Ndip said. "As I am telling you, people are dying in their numbers in Mamfe."
Mamfe is a town in Manyu, an administrative area on Cameroon's border with Nigeria where Cameroon says some of the fighters are trained. It has a vast expanse of forests, which the government says favors guerilla warfare with hit and run tactics from armed separatists.
The violence has pushed thousands of Cameroonians across the border to Nigeria since early October, when the separatists said they had declared their independence.
Schools have been closed in most of the English speaking northwest and southwest regions since November last year, when lawyers and teachers protested the overuse of French in the bilingual country. Violence erupted when separatists joined and called for complete independence.
President Paul Biya has made it clear that he will not negotiate on separation, saying the country is indivisible.
When the separatists started attacking military positions, he declared war on them, describing the separatists as terrorists.