Africa

UN chief calls for release of abducted students in Cameroon

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for the immediate release of 79 students abducted in Cameroon as he renewed his appeal for an end to the crisis in the breakaway English-speaking region.

Cameroonian forces on patrol in Buea, capital of Cameroon's majority anglophone South West province.
Cameroonian forces on patrol in Buea, capital of Cameroon's majority anglophone South West province. (AFP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for the immediate release of 79 students abducted in Cameroon as he renewed his appeal for an end to the crisis in the breakaway English-speaking region.

Gunmen kidnapped the 79 secondary school students and three staff members on Monday in Bamenda, capital of Cameroon's North West region -- one of two anglophone regions engulfed in turmoil.

Guterres condemned the kidnapping and "calls for their immediate release and return to their homes and families," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"There can be no justification for these crimes against civilians, particularly minors."

The abductions came on the eve of longtime President Paul Biya's swearing-in for a seventh term in office. Biya on Tuesday pledged to address the complaints from the English-speaking regions but ruled out secession.

Violence in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon has been on the rise over demands by the English-speaking minority for greater autonomy.

The separatists have gunned down troops and police, boycotted and torched schools and attacked other symbols of the Cameroonian state.

The authorities have responded with a massive crackdown by police and troops.

Guterres renewed his call for a peaceful solution to the crisis and offered UN help to broker a dialogue.

At least 400 civilians have been killed this year as well as more than 175 members of the security forces, according to non-governmental organizations.