Cameroon says separatists have killed and abducted villagers in the troubled South-West region in retaliation after the military this week killed a rebel leader and three of his men. The military blamed the self-declared general, nicknamed Transporter, for several atrocities, which the rebels deny.
Videos of improvised bombs exploding was shared on social media platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp, by Cameroon separatist groups.
The separatists have been fighting since 2017 to carve out an English-speaking state from majority French-speaking Cameroon.
In one video, a man identifies himself as Sagon Jaguar, leader of the separatist group called the Ambazonia Restoration Forces, in Bamessing village in Cameroon’s English-speaking North-West region. He says the bombs fighters planted destroyed five military jeeps belonging to Cameroon government troops.
The military confirmed that fighters resumed the use of such bombs in several English-speaking towns and villages, including Bamessing, Oku, Kumbo, Nkambe and Kom this week, and says several civilians have been killed or abducted with their property torched. Officials added that military vehicles were destroyed and some troops were wounded but gave no details.
Cameroon said fighters resumed attacks after government troops on Tuesday killed Ayuk Ndifon Defcam, a self-proclaimed rebel leader known as “General Transporter.” Government troops said he was neutralized alongside his assistant and two collaborators in Wame, a village in Meme, an English-speaking administrative unit in Cameroon’s South-West region.
Chamberlin Ntou’ ou Ndong, the highest-ranking government official in Meme visited Kumba on Friday to encourage civilians to denounce suspected fighters hiding in towns and villages. He said fighters who are avenging the killing of Transporter will be killed by the military if they do not lay down their weapons and surrender.
Ndong told VOA the notorious self-proclaimed general Transporter committed many crimes against civilians, including abductions, rape, and the massacre of seven school children in the English-speaking southwestern town of Kumba on October 24, 2020. He said Transporter, who escaped and was hiding in the creeks around the Gulf of Guinea, returned to Konye village near Kumba and was planning attacks on public edifices and military installations when government troops surprised him and three of his fighters.
Ndong said the military seized weapons from the rebels and freed several people who were held hostage by the fighters. The military said Transporter was the leader of several hundred fighters hiding in the bush.
Capo Daniel, a spokesperson and deputy defense chief of the separatist group Ambazonia Defense Forces, said fighters resumed full-scale attacks to avenge Transporter’s killing.
“We have increased the number of attacks and doubled our use of IED attacks against Cameroon military convoys. General Transporter represents the youths of Ambazonia who have stood up for their rights of self-determination. He has paid the ultimate price for what he believed in,” Daniel said. “We have replaced him and the allegations made by the state of Cameroon that General Transporter was involved in the killing of students in a school in Kumba is baseless.”
Separatists claim Cameroon’s military was behind the Kumba school attack. Daniel said the military blames fighters because the government wants to give fighters a bad name.
Daniel also said the attacks are also intended to stop the March 12 senatorial elections organized by Cameroon’s central government in Yaoundé from taking place in the English-speaking regions. He said anyone who defies the election ban will be dealt with but did not say how.
In December, Cameroon’s military said no major separatist attack had been reported within six weeks, an indication that peace is returning to the regions where 3,500 people have been killed in five years.
The United Nations says 750,000 have been displaced by the fighting.